The quick answer is that we try to meditate to feel more relaxed and happy, to give ourselves some calm time and connect with a feeling of peace.
We all know that meditation relaxes us, but this blog addresses the question: in our time-poor lives, if we manage to make a space in our schedule for some ‘me time’, then why choose meditation? There are loads of really nice ways to relax; spa days, relaxation apps, massage, to name but a few. We all have our favourites!
It is hard to pitch sitting still on the floor cross-legged against lying in a hot tub with a glass of something fizzy, which sounds VERY relaxing indeed, so what does meditation do to make it worth the effort? At the Harmonious Hub, we are big fans of meditation, so over the next four blogs, we will take a look at why and how it is a great thing to take up.
Meditation is more than relaxation
Feeling relaxed is great, but it wears off quickly. Some of the things we turn to for relaxation are not always available when we want them, or they are too expensive to do regularly. It’s good to look for a longer-term method which we can access anytime. Meditation is a good solution because it can be done anywhere, and classes, courses, and books can be found very reasonably priced, or by donation. You don’t need any expensive equipment either.
Meditation certainly relaxes us, we’ll look at why that is later, but delve deeper into teachings and you will find there’s much more to it than relaxation.
Here’s why: it is a way of getting to know your own mind in a deeper sense, which means you get an understanding of how your mind works and how it responds to the different experiences we have every day.
By gaining an understanding of how the mind works we can start to make choices about how we react rather than it being a reflex response. How many times have you wished you had thought first before reacting? It is something we can train ourselves to do, it takes effort but even small results can be seen quickly, and this training is meditation.
Seeds of change
Meditation is a tool to change your mind. If there are ever situations you would like to feel differently about or see in a different light (for most of us there are plenty!) then meditation can actually help to do this. It gives us a mind skill-set where we have better control over the way we react to things.
Normally it feels like we are at the mercy of our mind, for example, we don’t want to get upset/frustrated/anxious but we feel like we have no choice but to respond to a situation in that way. However, meditation is like a training, where we can train ourselves to react in a different way, not repressing but genuinely reacting in a more helpful, positive way. Life is full of minor frustrations, disappointments, and difficulties, but we can limit the effect these have on us by learning to respond in a more useful way. This is what mediation can teach us. Eventually, we can learn to deal with bigger and more difficult things.
Understand the mind
Meditation is a way to shine a light on thought processes and emotional reactions because it gives opportunities to focus on our own mind in a way we can’t do normally, simply because we are too busy dealing with life! As much as we might want to feel calm and composed, unless we actually make time to train in this, we will find that we are entirely dependent on what’s going on ‘outside’, if it’s going well we will feel good, if not we will feel deflated/angry/anxious. Meditation to some extent helps break that connection, so if things aren’t going our way, we can still feel calm and peaceful. That doesn’t mean we can’t engage with and deal with things, on the contrary, it gives us the ability to deal with difficulties with a clear mind, so we are less likely to do or say something we regret.
The cool thing about mediation is that it gives us the time and space to look at our own mind, something we rarely do in any other circumstance. We regularly make changes in our lives to try to improve things, we might re-decorate our homes, buy new clothes, change our hair, but we don’t think to try to improve our thought processes or mental habits.
We are creatures of habit, and just like repetitive exercise will train certain muscle groups, meditation can change long-standing unwanted habits to become habits we do want. If we habitually react with irritation to having a fly buzzing around our room, for example, there are meditation techniques to help us change that reaction to one of tolerance, even sympathy for the trapped fly, and this feels a whole lot better (including much better for the fly, who is less likely to get swatted!).
The benefits are real
Inner peace, calm, the ability to deal with things life throws at us are reasons why people learn to meditate. By learning about how our mind responds to things and working with that we learn to find a really peaceful place in our mind where there is just a feeling of calm. There is a lovely Buddhist analogy where we imagine our mind like the sea, it can be turbulent on the surface with waves or even storms, but underneath even the stormiest sea there is a calm place where the water is very still. Normally we focus on the top of the sea – what’s going on here and now and we react and respond like a reflex. If we can give ourselves the time and space to start to focus on what is going on underneath we give ourselves the break we really need – and that IS true relaxation.
There are many different forms of meditation being taught, some will take you on a longer and deeper journey than others. You can find a form of meditation and a teacher who resonates with you.
Oh, and you don’t need to sit still, crossed-legged on the floor, you can sit on a chair, or try walking meditation. Just try to avoid lying down… it’s just too tempting to fall asleep!