Is meditation useful or just a waste of time?
At a time when no long journey, commute or queue needs to be endured
without the use of a Smartphone; when many of us watch television while
simultaneously emailing or gaming; while check texts has crept into meetings,
dinner dates, the breakfast table…who wants to meditate? After all, isn’t
meditation doing nothing at all – stripped of all external stimuli? And isn’t the
whole point of the modern world that we never need be without stimuli?
So why meditate?
According to liveanddare.com the many benefits of meditation include
Improved emotional well-being
These benefits can start to kick in after just 20 minutes per day for a few
weeks. In fact, Andy Puddlecombe, founder of Headspace, tells us that
meditation re-shapes our brain. According to neuro-scientists as you continue
to meditate the ‘rest and digest’ section of the brain is activated.
So why is it boring?
Meditation may be perceived as boring but it can be experienced as anything
from boring to fascinating and everything in between. Like other disciplines in
life – exercising, eating well, getting enough rest – it is something we may
know works for us but we still find ourselves putting it off or not getting
around to it. One way of understanding the value of meditation can be to do
the complete opposite. Experiment by surfing on Facebook for an hour just before bed and then trying to sleep. As you close your eyes the leaps of your
mind with the attention span of a gnat are almost tangible.
So how do I meditate?
In its most basic form, meditation can be done anywhere and anyhow. It
generally involves stilling the body, the mind, the voice; but this can be done
on a crowded train, in a bus queue, even at the hairdressers. You don’t have to
be watching a beautiful sunset from a beachside hammock.
However, the quality of your meditation will likely be affected by the Where-
To-Fore (what you do before you meditate).
Meditation has been practiced in the West for some years now. Its origins can
be found in a number of cultural and religious setting of old, notably India.
Yoga – meditation’s partner practice – is done to set the ground for
meditation: to prepare the body and mind for it’s important task. Meditation
experienced after a yoga session may have a very different flavour. So may
sitting with your back against a tree after a walk in nature. Or a sunbathing
meditation after a cold swim.
And yet there is no right way. Because you are not seeking a pleasure
experience (or a pain experience) it is not a superior meditation because it
feels nice. Each meditation has its value, because it is teaching you what is –
bring awareness to your experience.
Instructions of precisely what to do can be found online. Those listed below
are provided by synchronicity.org
How to meditate
First, find a comfortable place where you can sit without distractions for at least 15
Sit comfortably with your back upright and without back support, if physically
Close your eyes and focus within.
Focus your attention.
You can focus your attention on your breath and breathing. Breathe in and out. Just
watch the movement of your in and out breaths.
You can repeat an affirmation (a positive statement about yourself and life).
If you use an affirmation, try to feel what it means to you.
You can focus on your heartbeat.
You can use any other method with which you feel comfortable.
If you notice your mind thinking, that’s okay, just bring your focus back to your
When you have completed meditating, it is a good idea to give yourself a few
minutes to acclimate slowly back into the activities of your day.
I’m still wasting time though, right?
In our busy culture, where long work hours are the norm, sitting still and
appearing to do nothing is one of the most radical activities we can undertake.
We tend to equate proper use of time with a tangible outcome, a goal –
usually the accruing of money.
When you stop activity and meditate you are joining thousands of people
round the world doing the same thing. Some of this number will be dedicating
their lives to this activity or non-activity of meditation. One such is Buddhist
monk Matthieu Ricard, the world’s happiest man.
“Scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain
produces a level of gamma waves – those linked to consciousness,
attention, learning and memory – ‘never reported before in the
neuroscience literature’, Davidson said. The scans also showed excessive
activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart,
allowing him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced
propensity towards negativity."
So far from being a waste of time, meditation may be the most important thing
you do for your mental and physical health each day.