By J. Martin
So it’s 2018, by now you’ve heard of meditation and or mindfulness.
If you haven’t take a look around, it’s in the news, social media, churches, and, even a few open-minded schools. You may ask yourself:
- What benefits are there?
- How is it done?
There are many styles and many more schools, each trying to push its favorite version as the the right one. So, let’s dive into meditation and a little rundown on it. Let’s look into why people meditate.
Most meditators would answer the question of “Why meditate?” with a Morpheus style, “Welcome to the desert of the real” type monologue. One only needs to glance at the world in which we live to see, war, poverty, hatred, violence and on and on. We live in a world of fast paced information driven, full of disappointments, and a generally pervasive malice.
Why does it gotta be like that? Like most things, stuff gets in a position of lameness due to good intentions and a series of compromises. Does meditation end all of these things? Sadly, no. Meditation in no direct way could or would save the world, even if everyone started a meditation practice today.
So if it doesn’t save the world, what the hell good is it, and why should I do it?
Meditation can give you powers. What powers, you ask. How about the power to kill a yak…with mind bullets? Obviously that isn’t true, but you were buying it for a minute—it’s okay to admit it. All joking aside, meditation has many life-changing benefits backed by science. People who meditate experience 50% less illness; this is due to the boost the immune system experiences thanks to the decreased stress levels. 30% of meditators experience decreased anxiety, and 65% have stated an increase in the feeling of well being.
Meditation has been proven to cause a reduction in the size of the amygdala, which is the area of the brain that is active in the famed “fight or flight” response. A reduced amygdala also means less fear-based impulsive behavior. As someone who has been meditating for nine years, there are benefits which cannot be quantified. There arises a base level of joy. It’s weird and hard to explain, but it is just a hanging positive vibe. Even though I haven’t perfected ant meditation practices, there is still this an amazing amount of focus. It’s like having exercised a muscle, the focus gets stronger in short order.
You will notice an increase in your compassion and empathy towards others as well as towards yourself. Something about getting to know the way you tick helps you to understand the way everyone else ticks. And once you know that, how mad can you really get at someone else, even if they screw up?
So let’s get into the how of the thing.
How does one meditate? I’m sure you envisioned some old guy, with a dope fu manchu, robes, and, a bald head. First off that’s profiling, and profiling is wrong… Just kidding. Things like that mental image come to mind when we think of meditation because that is the image we are fed by movies and it’s just not true. Yes, there are sects of hermits that hide away in mountain caves and monasteries spending nearly every waking minute devoted to the practice of meditation. Most simplistically, you can perform a serenity meditation (or as Buddhists, the O.G.s of meditation, call it Samatha). To do this style of meditation, find a straight-backed chair, one which you can sit with nice straight-backed posture. The straighter your back the less fatigue you will feel. Or if you’d like to get even more traditional you can sit on the floor. If you choose to sit on the floor you’ll want to use a rolled up pillow or blankets to key your buns elevated above your knees. For your legs, any variation of cross-legged posture you find comfortable will do. Play around with cushion configurations until you find the winner; everyone is different but if you’re willing, you’ll find the winning combo.
I prefer to take a bed pillow and roll it up. It sounds weird, but it works for me. Once you’ve found a cozy little spot it’s time to get on the brain work. Your eyes can be open or half closed, whichever you find more comfortable. Now breathe. Where do you feel your breath? Some answer under the nose, or the upper lip, still others find the rise and fall sensation of the diaphragm more noticeable. Again, it’s all about what works best for you. And…that’s it. Set yourself a timer so you don’t stay too long, and just focus on that sensation in and out…in and out…or rise and fall. Lather, rinse, repeat. I know it sounds simple but the results are no less than profound.
Let’s get mindful!
Mindfulness is a little different from Serenity meditation in a few key ways but is no less profound in its effects. First, Mindfulness meditation has a few names. Mindfulness, Insight, or Vipasana are all synonymous. To practice mindfulness there really are no prerequisites. You merely need to pay attention to your senses, and whatever arises you make a mental note. When you’re walking you think, “left, right, etc,” or when thinking, “thinking.” The key is to keep the notes very vanilla and don’t attach to any one of them. The purpose is to build up a more objective point of view.
For some this style is easier as it is more mobile and it can be taken any where. For others this method is too dry. It really comes down to you and your temperament and mental strengths. This article is just to pique your interests, and provide a little background knowledge.
J. Martin is a a 32 year old father of three and has been married for 13 years. He was a mechanic for 15 years, then his true calling found him and he became a firefighter. He has been a practicing Buddhist for nine years, including two years of meditation class at the Theravada temple near his home. His teacher moved on and before he did he told him, “Remember, I don’t teach students, I teach teachers. So do something with what you’ve learned.” So J. went to do what he could to further the meditative arts. Check out his blog, The Unusual Buddha.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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