It’s fair to say that most of us find meditation challenging even though the practice itself is simple. All we are trying to do is stay focussed on one thing over an extended period of time, it sounds easy but in practice staying focussed on one thing is extremely hard. As soon as we try our thinking mind comes along, taps us on the shoulder and distracts us. Often, the thinking mind is so sneaky that we don’t even realise that we’ve been hijacked until we are way down the long road of story telling, imagination, fantasy, rumination and projection. The thinking mind will do almost anything to be anywhere but in the present moment, instead it craves action, drama, planning, judgement, obsessive thinking and emotional roller-coasters, sound familiar? We know that our over-active thinking creates havoc for our nervous system and by extension for our mental health and wellbeing. That’s why meditation is prescribed as one of the most effective techniques to heal and soothe us. We also know that technology with its reward mechanism to keep us hooked, has made our ability to concentrate all the more difficult.
It’s important to note that concentration in itself is not meditation, it is merely the path towards meditation. We cannot make meditation happen, we can only practice sustained concentration that may lead you to the shift in consciousness required to be in a meditative state. When we move from prolonged concentration to meditation there’s a physiological and mental change that occurs as the brainwaves move from beta to alpha and eventually theta waves. Once we arrive here the breath deepens, the nervous system is soothed, thoughts unwind and the heart rate slows. Only then do we experience the lifting of worry and sink into a blissful state, and it’s in this space that we can glimpse the concept of oneness... this is yoga.
Unfortunately there is no quick easy way to keep our thinking mind focussed in the present. There are however many effective techniques that we can practice which over time help us to extend the length of concentration and eventually reward us with the meditative state that is so healing for us. In other words, meditation is not a quick fix, it’s a method which can be highly effective if we practice regularly over a long period of time without attachment to results. If we try too hard, the body stiffens and relaxation eludes us. If we make no effort we risk falling into a hazy stupor, which can feel nice but lacks the clarity of the meditative state. And so we come to our cushion with a curious mind, ready to explore, without expectation... we simply practice.
Have a go and let me know how it goes.
“practice only becomes firmly established when it has been executed with great attention and without interruption over a long period of time”- Yoga Sutra 1.14