Today I am going to talk about meditation. And more specifically what the goal of meditation is. I understand that adding the words meditation and goal in the same sentence will make a lot of people who are deep in this subject cringe. I understand! This article is for those analytical minds who want to try meditation because it will provide a benefit.
I recently read 10% Happier (link to Goodreads), written exactly by one of these analytical minds – Dan Harris. In this book he outlines his journey from a devout sceptic to a dedicated follower.
In this article, I am not going to teach out how to mediate. I am just going to show you the three benefits I find for myself when meditating.
But what is meditation? If you have been following my posts, I write a lot about meditation (How to Learn Meditation and Change Your Mind and Body, Access Your Subconscious Mind Through Meditation, Five Meditation Practices for Every Week). I practice it for the past tun years, but I really practice it for the past five years. Meditation is all about concentrating on the present moment. That elusive moment between the past and the present, which is all we have. I am not going to go into deep Buddhism or Zen territory, because I promised I will talk to you analytical minds out there.
Meditation and the Self
The main goal of meditation is to learn to separate the self from you. The self lives your life in a constant state of pull in many different directions (a.k.a., the monkey brain). When you meditate, you can be you. You are still pulled in multiple different directions, but you only notice these pulls and avoid getting lost in them. It teaches you the ability to recognize what is going on in your mind right now.
Meditation and impermanence
Another goal of meditation is to gain insight into impermanence. By letting the thoughts of the self flow without affecting you, you see how impermanent they are. Fear, joy, anger, satisfaction, rage, sadness are all impermanent. They are thoughts inside the self and they only become permanent if the self identifies with them. By letting them go and practicing non-attachment to them during meditation, you gain the ability to do the same when you are not meditating.
Meditation and the present
The final goal of meditation is to make the present moment your friend, not your enemy. The present moment is not an obstacle to get to the next moment (this process is also called nexting or always looking for the next moment), it is all you have. The self’s job is to regret the past and worry about the future. The self is constantly scanning the environment and activates the fight-or-flight response when there is problem (but is usually wrong most of the time in the modern days). By being mindful of the present moment, you concentrate on the most important part and the only part you can control – what is happening in your mind right now.
There is no self to help
When you combine these three goals, you get to the main point of meditation – there is no “self” to “help”. You are not the self, the emotions, the beliefs. You are the observer, the one who sees. Just like every thought is impermanent, if you do not identify with it, every situation is impermanent, if you do not identify with it. And just like the present moment is your friend during meditation, it is also your friend when not meditating.
Monitoring the breath
The best way to achieve that separation is by monitoring your breath. This is one of the few processes (the only process?) in your body which can be both voluntary and non-voluntary. When you sit and meditate and you notice your mind wondering, you gently direct it back to monitoring your breath. Thus, your only job during meditation is to pay attention to what is happening in your mind right now, and direct it back to the present moment (your breath). This is all there is. Similarly, your only job when not meditating is to pay attention to what is happening in your mind, and direct it back to the present moment and the path it is following (i.e., your goals).
If you take one thing from this article, let it be this. Make a commitment with yourself to start every morning with three mindful breaths. Stand in front of a window. Start with your hands by your side. Raise both hands above your head while inhaling. Then lower them back while exhaling.
What are the next steps?
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