What is meditation, mindful awareness or heartfulness? They all mean the same thing: training your mind to focus without clinging to any judgements. Meditation can enhance our lives, our physical well being, our relationships and our deep sense of mental coherence. Meditation is being mindfully aware of something instead of being just aware. Being mindfully aware means to focus without preconceived judgements. As you start to practice, you understand this is more than just focusing; Meditation becomes a focus on self, self–love and self compassion. As a wonderful consequence of meditation, your family and people around you will benefit as well.
The practice of Meditation is more than 2500 years old and has been studied for 20-30 years in the West. An ancient story describes the mind being like an ocean: deep in the ocean, beneath the surface, it is calm and clear. Let’s say you look up from that deep ocean, up to the surface. There you may see small waves, big waves, full storms, but deep in the ocean it is calm and clear. Meditation lets you to sense this deep tranquil place, even when you are surrounded by chaos. You soon realize thoughts are simply thoughts and they are not the totality of who you are.
Meditation or mindful awareness is being in the here and now. Ever notice when you are doing something, you think about what you are going to do next? This is because we are rarely focused on the present moment. Lets take showering as an example: Are you mindfully showering or thinking about, making breakfast, getting kids to school, if your spouse got that email, that office meeting and it goes on! It’s stressful because our mind keeps going on and on with thoughts. In other words, we allow our minds to carry infinite thoughts, scenarios and possibilities – always focused on the ‘next’ and not the ‘now’.
Most of our suffering is self-created because we have a tendency to make judgments of things and people around us. We may see someone with a nice car and we may start making judgments regarding how we don’t have a nice car or why do they get to have it and we don’t. From there, the cascade of judgemental thoughts pile on one another and the end result is our own suffering. The truth is, the majority of us are on auto-pilot for making judgements most of the time.
Being on auto-pilot causes us stress, which saps our energy, our health and shortens our lives. Stress makes us more vulnerable to disease, disconnection, depression and anxiety. This self-created suffering is completely avoidable through a “COAL” (Dr. Dan Siegel) state of mind. C stands for Curiosity; O stands for Openness, being open to what is without judgement; A stands for Acceptance, accepting where we are right now at this moment and L stands for Love, cultivating a tender hearted kindness toward self and others.
First, let’s discuss the benefits of meditation backed by science. A Harvard neuroscientist has found, through Magnetic Resonance Imaging, after 8 weeks of mediation, our brain changes its shape. There was thickening in the posterior cingulate, hippocampus, temporo parietal junction and brain stem – combined these areas of our brain are involved in self relevance, learning, memory, emotional regulation, empathy and compassion. While certain parts of our brain thickened, the Amygdala shrank as a result of meditation leading to less stress.
The Science of brain, Science of secure parent-child attachment and Science of mindful awareness practice are 3 independent fields of study that have found the structural changes in your brain correlates with various important functions toward your health and your family’s health.
Meditation does not promise to fix your problems, instead it provides a window of clarity from which we can view our problems. Meditation is not something you achieve; it is a skill you practice. Through meditation you cultivate a sense of wakefulness to your surroundings without judgement and freedom from suffering though incessant thoughts. Meditation does not have to be done sitting, it can be done in everyday life. For example, while eating, walking, washing dishes and/or taking a shower.
There are plenty of meditation and mindfulness approaches for consumers to buy, ranging from paid apps to paid classes. If you want to start mediation and experience all the benefits, you can start with 5 minutes and focus on Breathing. Your Breath can become an anchor to the present. All you need to do is attend to your Breath. Breath is the one thing that immediately connects us to the present moment and to our bodies. When focusing on the Breath, you pay attention to the beginning, the middle and the end of a full duration of one Breath. You focus on the sensation of your body while you take 1 Breath.
It may sound easy, but it is difficult because you will notice how thoughts can invade during meditation. Our mind will always have thoughts. Remember not to judge yourself if your focus is gone, bring in the COAL stance in to your practice. Just gently bring yourself back to your Breath. This is mediation; it is about beginning again and again. One Breath. It is about this moment and this Breath.
If you are looking to learn more about meditation, I recommend watching YouTube videos by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He is a molecular biologist, scientist, writer and a meditation teacher. He has uploaded numerous mediation videos to help people connect with themselves. He teaches you how to purposefully cultivate an attitude of patience and non- judgement. Through your practice you will experience a better relationship with yourself and your interpersonal relationships. Your friends and family will thank you!
Immediate Benefits of Meditation
- an improvement in the regulation of the body in order to keep balance
- attunement; to bring into harmony; to better understand what is needed
- deep empathetic connection with family
- cultivating response flexibility meaning you are able to pause before reacting
- insight, a self knowing awareness
- ability to calm down internally
- being in touch with your intuition, becoming more attuned to your body’s wisdom, energy and information flow