In a world where the ultimate goals are success, money and power, we’ve gotten used to the fast-paced way of living that modern society has normalized.
Getting things done isn’t the best we can do anymore, multitasking is — and with these kdinds of productivity-addiction-fuelled behaviours many of us can’t seem to shake as we chase success and fulfillment, this has become true:
People would rather endure electric shocks than having nothing to do but sit with their thoughts. (Source)
In this regard, the ancient practice of meditation poses a much-needed brake to our relentless speeding car.
Depending on what time period you look at, it can be seen that the practice surfaced many thousands of years ago most likely from the Hindu tradition from Vedantism and then spreading to Taoist China and nearby countries.
Nowadays, it’s made its way to mainstream Western culture and become popular as a way to ease stress, seek internal meaning, and empty one’s mind.
What really is meditation?
Meditation is quite a broad term with several categories falling underneath, but in literature, meditation is a process by which an individual controls his/her mind and induces a mode of consciousness either to achieve some benefits or for the mind to simply acknowledge is contents without being identified with the content, or just as an end in itself.
In Hinduism (originally Sanatana Dharma), meditation has a place of significance. The basic objective of meditation is to attain oneness of the practitioner’s spirit (atman with) omnipresent and non-dual almighty (Paramatma or Brahman). This state of one’s self is called Moksha in Hinduism and Nirvana in Buddhism. (Source)
My experience with meditation
After a recommendation from the community at The Knowledge Society, I downloaded the app “Waking Up” by Sam Harris, philosopher and author with a background in neuroscience, a few months ago.
In the beginning, I didn’t use it too much, however when the summer came, I made it a habit to do a Daily Meditation each morning. And with that, I was already starting to see a lot of benefits.
It was a great way to start off my day, grounded, and it allowed me to recognize what thoughts were on my mind and begin to learn how to let them pass rather than getting annoyed at their existence.
I was also beginning to get a glimpse of some more powerful implications like the ability to see my thoughts as just that, and realize that emotions don’t need to have the profound effect that they tend to have on my mood and wellbeing.
Sadly, a point came where I simply fell out of the habit. And due to the perceived difficulty of restarting the practice and allocating time for something other than work, I’ve failed to resume.
However, I recently got the opportunity to take part in a six-week mediation course under a meditation coach, and I’m ecstatic to overcome these invisible barriers and achieve the following things through meditation:
1. Mental resilience
Although it’s always been something I feel ashamed of, I’m a pretty sensitive & emotional person. This means that my feelings often overwhelm me and make me spiral, especially under stressful conditions.
This has often disadvantaged me in pressure-full situations where I’m forced to work under a time crunch or do something I’m unfamiliar with, and frankly it’s something I wish I could just turn off.
The tendency to let my emotions control my ability to think and act clearly is a nuisance — but I think meditation could help here.
During one of Sam Harris’ sessions, I remember him saying something along the line that thoughts are merely figments of your mind.
The way I see it, thoughts act like triggers to feelings and emotional responses. So, working to internalizing this message and train the ability to treat thoughts, and the consequent feelings they arise, as objects (and then act independently of these objects), is something I want to prioritize.
In a high-stress world, dealing with my emotions in an effective and healthy way could be a superpower.
2. Being present
Some time ago, I sat down in front of desk, pulled out my journal, and went on about life was moving so fast that I felt like it was happening to me, not by me.
It was such an uncomfortable, perplexing condition, particularly because at the same time, I was trying to juice as much productivity out of my time as possible, which I figured would have the opposite effect.
What I soon came to realize though, is that one of the main causes of my time-bound misery had nothing to do with time at all.
It had to do with my (lack of) being present.
Although definitions may vary, being present means being fully conscious of the moment and free from the noise of internal dialogue. (Source)
This is another consequence of the constantly-rapid world I mentioned early; we just can’t seem to catch a break from external or internal “busyness” and as a result, there’s always something on our mind.
Sometimes these things pile up so much that we lose touch with what’s going on in the moment in your environment so much so that you end up like me, desperately asking where the time’s going and feeling like things are going a mile a minute.
With all my goals and important tasks lined up on my calendar, I’m worried this is going to happen again. In fact, I already feel the buildup — every week I take a look at my calendar and say “Are you serious? Sunday already?! Damn.”
By grounding myself through frequent meditation, I hope to overcome this sense of time moving faster than I can perceive, and become more aligned with the present, inside and outside of practice.
Alongside this, I also want to unlearn the mindset that constantly being busy is the only productive use of time.
I want to get comfortable doing nothing.
I was contemplating whether or not to add this one in as the obvious link between meditation and self-compassion might not be so clear, but here’s my thought process:
Oftentimes during meditation, our thoughts drift away. This is natural, but since we see meditation as the act of having a completely blank slate, it feels wrong. We subsequently criticize ourself for having thoughts.
Again, in the Waking Up course, Harris often said that there’s no reason to get mad at yourself for your thoughts drifting. In fact, it’s actually more unproductive, because your frustration is simply another thought.
For that reason, accepting your faults as normal and persisting onward instead of dwelling on your downsides is a skill necessary for meditation.
I think that if I could extrapolate this out and generally improve my ability to forgive myself, or rather stop unreasonably criticizing myself for mistakes altogether, I could greatly level up my growth mindset.
Meditation could be a training ground for me to get used to learning from failure rather than giving up because of it, and this could unlock potential in every domain.
Meditation is very much centred around you. Because of this, the practice can be a great avenue to gain new insights about yourself, or generally become more self-aware.
I’m stating these facts as if they’re my own, but in reality, I’m only at the tip of the iceberg in my meditation journey. I’m not at the point where I’ve learned new things about myself, and I’m not entirely sure how I will, but I do know it’s possible.
So one of the final things I’m looking forward to is figuring out just that — and I look forward to sharing what I learn along the way.
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