Why we do Meditation?
We have all seen photos and videos of people sitting in perfect Sukhasana( the seated cross-legged pose), looking absolutely serene, practicing what is commonly known to everyone as Meditation. Many people claim that they spend at least an hour meditating daily and this has done wonders for their lives. Online you will find all types of guided mediation videos and audios which claim to bring you to a peaceful and relaxed state of mind. But how much do we actually know about the subject of Meditation itself?
What is Meditation?
Meditation is the practice of Awareness.
So what is awareness?
Awareness is when we are fully present all of the time.
What does this mean?
Imagine brushing your teeth in the morning. What is going through your mind during the act?
- Mulling over what happened the previous night?
- Planning your schedule for the day?
- Multi-tasking and making tea while you brush?
- Thinking of anything other than brushing since it's such a mechanical task?
- Focusing on brushing your teeth, taking your time, and doing a good job with love and concentration?
If you answered no.5, then you are fully present while brushing your teeth. You are fully aware of the way you are holding your brush, how you apply your toothpaste, the way the bristles scrub against your teeth, and so on. During the act, you are not thinking of anything else besides brushing. You are fully present.
When you are done brushing your teeth, your thoughts switch to your next act and stay focussed on that act only.
This is Awareness.
The act of being fully present the entire time while you are brushing and not having any other thoughts is Meditation. So you were actually meditating the entire time you were brushing.
Hence, Meditation is the practice of Awareness. It is NOT the result of awareness.
Awareness is not something that is achieved only during a posture, with our eyes closed. We meditate to create this awareness all the time. It is a lifestyle.
Many people say that they spend at least an hour a day meditating. Let us further clarify what exactly they are actually doing. Firstly, they aren’t at all Meditating.
When we sit down, our first step is usually to center ourselves and switch our minds from whatever activity we were doing earlier to the present one - Meditating. This can be done with at least 3 long slow breaths and one can choose to chant a mantra or say a prayer of gratitude / an affirmation or set an intention. Next, when we are ready, we focus our attention on a point, this can be our breath, the center of our forehead or our third eye or the center of our upper lip, etc. We try our best to stay focused on this area during the entire time of our practice. We are concentrating on that area. Every time, thoughts enter our minds, we bring our attention back to the point of focus.
Three Steps to Meditation:
- Focus (which leads to)
- Concentration (which leads to)
Meditation is actually a lifestyle. It is awareness all the time.
When we practice meditation, the aim is to bring the awareness we create during the practice into our lives all of the time.
It’s like Yoga, Yoga is not what we achieve during the 1 hour we practice on the mat, but it is the lifestyle that we cultivate in the 23 hours off the mat.
Many people can say that they practice meditation for an hour every day but still they seem to be anxious or agitated throughout the day. This may be because they are just sitting down for an hour daily and concentrating really hard but their mind is flying everywhere simultaneously, or it could be because they manage to focus for an hour but after the practice, they completely forget about what they did and just move on to their next task in the day.
Meditation is a state of mind that you take along with you throughout the day and even when you sleep at night.
Enlightenment, which many say is their goal of meditation, is actually the State of Awareness.
This brings us to the next question.
What is the Purpose of Meditation?
Control of our thoughts.
Being able to have control over when thoughts come into our minds and being able to access the thought database at will. We must have control over our thoughts instead of our thoughts controlling us.
Eg: We go to a restaurant. We have a good meal. We return home.
We don’t need to think about the restaurant or meal again until an appropriate time such as if someone asks us about our experience, or if we go to the place again. Then the memory of our experience comes back in this moment only. However, on our way home, if we are taking the metro and we meet our friends, there is no need to think of the food until they ask. Instead, we can focus on getting to the metro station, the things we see along the way, buying our ticket, etc. When we get home and are preparing for bed, again there is no need to think about the food.
If we are thinking about food, then our thoughts which are controlled by our mind is ruling over us. In this case, the mind is being controlled by the sense of Taste. Most of the time our mind is ruled by the 5 senses.
However, if we are doing nothing and we choose to think of the memory of the restaurant, and that is all we are doing at that moment, and that is a case where are in control of our thoughts.
But to think of the restaurant when we are doing other things is pointless.
Try to think of your thoughts like a database of your memories. Each memory is made of many files and these files are organized like folders, just like in a computer. Here your mind is the computer. When you are not currently using a program, the folder remains closed. However, when you choose to open it, you can choose which specific files you want to open.
To elaborate with the same example.
Folder - You went for dinner to a particular restaurant.
Files - How the food tasted, the service, the ambiance, etc.
Inside each folder, there can be multiple other sub-folders and files.
Though it is better not to clog the system too much. Just like a computer, you are in danger of space running out.
So the purpose of Meditation is to have control over our thoughts. To access them only when we choose to do so for a particular reason.
Sometimes it happens, that we go to a restaurant that has the best reviews but we don’t end up having the same experience. In these moments, it is important to remember that every moment is individually different ie. every moment is experienced by each individual differently. Even if multiple people were experiencing the same moment at the same time, they all experience it differently. So no moment can be the same for any person.
This is an understanding of memory. So always trust your own experience only and remember everything in the present is NEW always.
All thoughts are the Past.
All thoughts of the future are merely a projection of your past.
(think about this one. When you plan for anything in the future or visualize, you can only plan up to the point that you are aware of. No matter how much you plan, anything that you have not planned for can also happen.)
We are one part Body - which is always in the present.
We are one part mind - which is usually in the past or the illusionary future.