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Meditation, a starting guide to spiritual growth

Meditation, what is it? Why do it? And how do you do it? In this post I will dive deeper into meditation, the benefits it brings and what it can do for you.

What is meditation?

Simply put, meditation is doing one thing, and only that one thing. What that thing is may vary. Most people will sit still in a quiet room, close their eyes and focus on their breathing. But meditation can also be mowing the grass. As long as your mind is only focused on the thing you are doing, you are in essence, meditating. One of the most commonly known forms of “active” meditation is yoga.

Women practicing yoga

Normally when we are busy doing things, our mind wanders off, and we think about all kinds of things that are going on in our lives. The kids, our work, our spouse, whatever. When this happens we are distracted and less able to focus on the thing we are actually doing. If this is a trivial task like doing the dishes then that’s fine. But when we are doing a difficult task, we want our heads fully focused on said task.

When we are totally focussed on the task at hand, may it be the dishes or a complex problem, we are in essence meditating. I know people who meditate while driving their car. No radio, no conversation, only driving. For them, it is the best way to clear their head.

Meditating is being in the moment. Not thinking about the past or the future, only being busy with what is right in front of you.

Why meditate?

Like I said, mediation is focussing on one thing only. When we do this we create space and quiet inside our heads. For most people their heads are a very busy and loud place. Thoughts shoot up and shout for attention. Our ego calls on us all and wants us to do this or that. A lot of noise. This noise can be extremely distracting and even overwhelming. It can create clouds inside our brains that fog our thought patterns and process, and might even prevent us from setting and reaching goals. This busy and noisy brain is also referred to as the drunken monkey brain. Always reaching out and trying to get attention.

Meditating is learning to quiet your own mind, to silence the thoughts and the ego, to calm the monkey. Once we accomplish this we create a serene space within ourselves. Here we are able to rest. Our body’s go into an almost sleep like state, giving it the opportunity to heal its self. The same go’s for our minds. This state of mind provides us with all sorts of benefits, like; insights, rest, knowledge, ideas, refection etc.

Women meditating

Most of us know the feeling, you are in the shower and all of a sudden you get a brilliant idea. It always happens when you least expect it. Like when you are walking the dog. We create a similar environment for insights and ideas when we meditate. By stopping our thought process and creating inner peace, we create the circumstances for insights and ideas to pop up into our brains.

Once we reach the meditative state, and our thoughts and ego are silenced, we create space. Space for the things that really matter. Things we might not like to think about in our day-to-day life. But these are things that are important. Often they are the reason we are acting and doing things is a certain way. Or they are the things that prevent us from reaching goals. This can be trauma from when we were a child, or problems we encounter in our day-to-day lives.

It can be difficult to experience this, but it will always be beneficial to us. We learn from these experiences, are able to see them in a different light, learn from the situation/people involved/ourselves, get ideas, become more centered, and learn what really matters to us. It can also help us reduce anxiety and stress, and help us set clear goals.

How to meditate

Meditation is like a muscle. You need to practice and exercise in order to get better and reap the rewards. At first, it will be difficult, but with persistence and repetition you will find that it becomes easier with every try. There is no right or wrong way of meditating. In time, you will develop your own way of meditation that works best for you.

Also, try not to hold too closely to techniques, you will develop your own. In the beginning it will suffice to keep your focus on your breath. Start small with only 1–5 minutes of meditation. In time, you can increase the duration of the meditation. And you can experiment with different types of meditation.

The basis of meditation;

  1. It is easiest when you set aside time to meditate, turn off your notifications and/or put your phone away or in flight mode. Do set a timer just in case, as you might doze off to sleep in the beginning!
  2. Put on some meditative music, sit up right, and close your eyes, lay your hands on your knees/lap with your palms open and facing up.
  3. Focus on your breath. Inhale through the nose and follow the in breath into your stomach and then back up and out through your mouth.
  4. Continue focussing on your breath. Now it might be that thoughts enter your mind. This is very normal. Try and see them as clouds or as cars that pass you by. Just let them pass. If you find yourself following one, don’t worry, it happens. Just be aware of it and return to your breath.

It is always helpful to seek more information on meditation. This will help you better understand what it is, what you experience, why you experience it and how you can deal with it. There is a lot of information on the subject, dating back to thousands of years.

My personal experience with meditation

I started meditating about 3 years ago. As I was suffering from cluster headache, I hoped it would bring me some relief. At first, it was very difficult. My mind was constantly wandering off. From time to time I would doze off into sleep (set an alarm!).

With practice, I got better at it. In time, I started doing all kinds of different variations of meditation. Some suited me better than others, but all were in some sort of way educational.

A good and a bad side

I found that meditation (for me) is very self reflective. It shows me all sides of me, the good and the bad. The bad was not that pleasant to experience. At first, I had difficulty dealing with that, which made me turn away when it came up in meditation. After doing research on the topic, I found that it was in fact the exact place I needed to focus on.

Dark side

It’s the same as with physical exercise. The exercises that are hardest on your body (these exercises vary per person) are the ones you need the most and are the best for you.

These bad parts of ourselves give us negative emotions. Emotions are a form of energy. And as energy can not be destroyed, only transformed they are actually a calling. They want you to give them attention so that they can transform into something different.

Each and every one of us has good and bad parts, it’s what makes us human. By facing the “bad parts” of yourself in meditation, you will find that they to provide valuable insights and lessons. And that they are not as scary as they might at first appear to be. Once faced you might find that you look at those pars of yourself in a different and more forgiving way. And that, when they come to be in the real world you will handle it differently too.

What it has brought me?

For me, meditation has had a massive positive impact on my life, and on my cluster headache. It has given me more inner peace, self-love, and self-respect. Through meditation, I have been able to finally see clearly what matters to me in life, and how I can set, and go about, attaining my goals and dreams.

Where I before very much identified with my disease, meditation has shown me that I am in fact not my disease. The frequency of my attacks has significantly dropped, and I am better capable in handling them. It has been great for my mental health too. Where I before had a negative dialogue with myself, I now have a positive one. In the past I would always be harsh on myself when things went wrong, I’d blame myself. Now things still go wrong from time to time, and I am aware of that, but now I see it not as failing, but as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Conclusion

I dare to say that meditation, and spirituality in general, have been an enrichment of my life, and have made me a better person. Meditation has taken away my being scared. Being scared of following dreams and living life. So I would highly recommend you giving it a try!

Enjoy life to the fullest, BEINLOVEWITHYOURSELF!