Today we'll talk about a way to help improve your spiritual health: Meditation.
Meditation is an almost metaphysical and mystical existence for those who are not familiar with it. Meditation is not just sitting with your eyes closed and legs crossed and clearing your mind, and calming your body and mind by thinking about nothing. Rather, it is a more systematic way of focusing the mind and spirit on what you want to focus on.
There are various forms of meditation, but most of us refer to Mindfulness Meditation. To quote Dr. Joan Kabat-King, who first introduced mindfulness into the field of medical therapy, mindfulness is: "In this moment of reality, one should be as non-reactive, non-judgmental and open-minded as possible.” This means focusing on the here and now, not dwelling on the past, not anticipating the future, not reacting to the thoughts in your head, not judging anything, and releasing the negativity from the experience and infusing it with as much positivity as possible.
With the development of society and the influx of information nowadays, it is more difficult for us to truly relax and quiet our minds and bodies. Meditation is a great way to help us clear our minds, relieve stress and enjoy the joy of relaxation. Here we will discuss the various aspects of meditation for beginners.
1. Improves work efficiency.
Meditation is a certain degree similar to a gym for the mind and is good for exercising concentration. Practicing concentration during meditation is like building muscles at the gym. With continued practice, you can noticeably feel that you can focus on your studies or work more consistently.
Most anxiety and stress comes from ruminating about the past and worrying about things that probably won't happen in the future. With continued meditation practice, you can better focus your mind on the present moment: living in the present without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. At the same time, practicing meditation can also help you accept your anxiety, allowing you to live with your negative emotions in peace, rather than fighting them vigorously.
3. Find yourself.
Most of the time, our minds are on “autopilot”, passively thinking about what comes to mind and automatically responding to external stimuli. Meditation can help you quiet down, stop the autopilot mode, and allow you to actively listen to your inner voice.
Steps of Sitting Meditation
Sitting meditation is the posture we are most often exposed to, i.e., when you hold a seated position for meditation practice and enter a state of positive thinking. If you are not experienced in meditation practice, the steps listed below can be effective in helping to take the first step.
- Maintain a comfortable sitting posture, taking care to always try to straighten the spine. You can try to pad your hips so that your knees are lower than your hips, which is more conducive to straightening your spine.
- Become aware of the sensation of your breathing. Focus your attention on where your breath feels strongest, such as your nose, or the rise and fall of your chest, or the expansion and contraction of your abdomen. Don't think or judge, just feel and experience.
- Slowly expand your awareness from focus to breath to the whole body. Go to feel the whole body like a mountain, smooth and firm.
- Next, you can engage in mindfulness and focus on the present. If a part of the body is uncomfortable, slowly breathe into that part to reduce the discomfort. Note that if a negative thought arises, accept it and let it go.
- After a period of time, you can begin to perceive sounds with sound meditation. At first, you can perceive the sounds in the room, around your body, and gradually expand to more distant sounds outside the house. Don't make an effort to listen to it intentionally — let it happen naturally.
- Don't put labels on any sound. For example, when you hear an airplane, listen to the sound itself, rather than thinking, “That's an airplane”.
- After listening for about 10 minutes, you can start thinking and feeling mindfulness, turning your attention to your inner thoughts. Thoughts can be presented as sounds or as images. Do not judge or accuse to listen or watch your thoughts, accept them with your whole heart.
- Do not force yourself to produce a certain thought or to dissipate it. If your thinking cups a certain thought fixed, calmly step back to keep a certain distance and observe it from a distance.
- Now notice any emotion that rises up in you and be open to positive or negative emotions. Feel what part of it is coming from? Is it new or is it something you are familiar with? Do you want to run away from it or do you want to keep it in? Do your best to observe it in a friendly, open and curious way.
- At the end of the “sitting meditation” practice, congratulate yourself with kindness and affirm your efforts. The practice you have done takes you out of the doing mode and into the being mode of exploring your heart. Enjoy this wonderful feeling of joy and happiness!
Notes on Meditation Practice
- Before starting a meditation practice each time, be as comfortable as possible for yourself. Don't wear tight clothes, loosen the cuffs and collar, or take off your shoes and find a pose that suits you.
- Also try to develop the habit of entering meditation strongly, i.e., using sound, sitting, or space to guide yourself into meditation. For example, my previous professor used a Buddhist sound bowl and let the lasting and ethereal sound lead us to begin meditation. I now separate a small area at home with a bodhi tree and a meditation mat, and sitting cross-legged under the bodhi tree helps me enter meditation easily.
- Start with ten minutes and slowly increase the time. Everything is difficult at the beginning, it must be difficult to achieve the goal of 30 minutes of meditation for yourself at the beginning, you can start with 10 minutes and stick to it for a month. Develop the habit of meditating every day, and then gradually increase the length of time and enter into deeper meditation. If you don't have 10 minutes in the morning, it's okay to practice before going to bed. Personally, I think the morning practice is more effective because it allows you to start your day awake.
- It's okay to have your mind wander when you first start meditating, noticing the change in your mind is progress. At first, we all must have experienced the inability to focus on our breath when our thoughts wander. But when you notice the wandering of your own mind, when you actively see yourself as an observer of the changes in your thoughts, when you can feel the back and forth of your emotions, the ups and downs of your thoughts, then you are making progress.
Books about meditation
- Mindfulness for Dummies by Shamash Alidina: It can help you get started quickly.
- The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle: A detailed description of meditation to help you practice living in the present moment.
- Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda Paramahansa: A book that Steve Jobs has read every year since he was a teenager. Full of mystical experiences, it is recommended for those who have been practicing for a while.
Finally, here are the words of Steve Jobs on meditation: If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there's room to hear more subtle thing -- that's when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much than you could see before. It is a discipline, you have to practice it.