Meditation, what is it exactly?
What is meditation? What is it good for? It’s something that we have been recommending at The Morning Mind for a while now, so it’s time that I explained what meditation is to me and what I know it can do.
Meditation, firstly, is the best thing I have ever done for myself. Its effects have been subtle but honestly life-changing. That’s not to say that before I started the practice my life was terrible and now it’s fantastic. That’s not the case, but meditation has made a big difference to my life that goes far beyond simple relaxation.
Meditation can be a whole lot of different things to different people and for the majority of us (who are not zen masters) first and foremost, meditation is a healer. It is a practice that gently, slowly, subtly heals our minds.
The best way I can describe the process is to imagine your mind as a big ball of string. The string is tangled beyond belief, all tied up in circles, round and round, completely messed up and knotted. This ball of string seems impossible to untangle, no matter how hard we pull, no matter which thread we pick, the string stays tangled. Regular meditation, however, slowly and gradually begins to untangle that string. The string begins to unwind all by itself, it spreads out, more space, fewer knots, no tangles. The string spreads out, again and again, untangling gently until it is in one, complete, straight line. That is what happens to the mind with meditation and it’s fantastic. Though, why do we need a straight string?
Many of us walk through life today with clouded minds, we don’t see things clearly, we don’t think clearly, our perspectives are warped, our minds covered in fog. This clouding of our minds causes all sorts of problems in our own lives and in the world. It is the source of human illusions, like depression and fear. This clouding effects the way that we think, the way we feel and the way we act causing us to walk through life blindly as our corrupted minds guide us down the wrong path.
What meditation can do, if practised frequently and well, is heal all of that confusion, wipe it all away. It can clear our thoughts, remove the clouds and reveal reality. What so many of us need in life right now is a taste of reality, rather than the hazy existence we live in our heads. That reality that comes from a clean and clear mind. A mental clean slate or a straight string.
That straightening of the string is more than just having peaceful thoughts. What people generally think of, when they think of meditation, calming, relaxing etc is just the tip of the meditation iceberg. In fact, I find those things to be far less important than what I would deem are the main changes meditation can reveal in us. What’s far more important than it’s relaxing effects is this unravelling of our minds.
Meditation will clean our minds, open our minds, ease our minds, train our minds and empower our minds. Meditation can allow us to start fresh, mentally and emotionally. Will ourselves to meditation and we will ourselves to peace, joy, happiness and success in every part of our lives. Meditation will improve our health, meditation will improve our work, it will better our love lives, it will blossom our friendships, it will drive our careers, it will bring joy and happiness to us. Meditation will better your life. It will do all of this because it will better your mind.
Our lives are determined by us, our thoughts, our feeling, our choices. We decide. We make those decisions, those choices in our heads, in our minds. The way we see things, the way we experience things, the paths we take, the friends we make, the jobs we hate. It is all determined in the mind and then set and repeated in reality. Meaning a mind clouded with false perception and negative thinking will lead us to a place that we never intended to be. A mind free and clear from clouded thinking is able to see the path ahead, to see the solutions, to see beauty, to see life for what it really is.
A clear mind becomes more peaceful, more present, more loving, more aware. More giving, more joyful, more grateful. A clear mind is a mind that will lead us through life, knowing that everything will be ok, that there is love, kindness, greatness and goodness in the world and all around us. A healthy mind is key to a healthy and happy life.
This deeper layer of meditation is sometimes missed in today’s trends; many of us believe that meditation is just a tool for relaxation and nothing else. Though, while it certainly is a relaxing practice, it can be so much more than that if we scratch a little deeper than the surface.
The mind becomes more powerful with meditation. You are more able to focus and will be present more often. You will feel lighter and more relaxed. It can invigorate and give energy. You will have a deeper access to your subconscious mind, therefore a deeper knowledge and wisdom, as well as ideas and solutions. You will have more passion and deeper love, greater patience and a stronger will. These are just a handful of things that meditation can do for us by wiping away that fog that clouds us.
A simple and clear way of understanding the effects of meditation is to think of the human mind as a sort of scale. One of those flat scales that kind of looks like a timeline. This scale goes from -100 to +100 and the numbers represent our mental health and capability. +100 represents the height of mental evolution and -100 represents the lowest we can go mentally. To put the scale into perspective I would say that a person suffering with severe depression is around the -50 mark lets say, and the Dalai Lama would be a +50, just to give you a rough idea. I would then say that the population in general scales varyingly between -5 and -40. That’s where most of us will be sitting on the mental health scale but it’s not where we started.
We don’t come into the world at a -80 or -4, nor do we come out at +10 or +2. We are born at 0, at the neutral point, with a clean and clear mind, untainted by negative perceptions. Through growing up, most of us allow ourselves to slip down the scale to some degree, into the minuses, as we experience life without the knowledge of any healthy mental practice. We end up sitting at – 10, 20, 30, 40 and don’t even realise it.
That is what meditation is all about for me in this moment, I’m not at the stage where I could be or would want to push into the high plusses or even mid to low plusses. I’m simply trying to get out of my own way, to keep my path clear, to maintain my natural and neutral state, to maintain 0.
Walking through life with a mind stuck in the minuses is tough. It’s hard, struggling every day like that. I meditate to maintain my neutral state and began to meditate to return to that 0. I would say the lowest I ever got on the scale was -30 and what meditation did for me was it got me back to my birthright, back to 0. Back to a healthy, clean and clear mind. And I’m not perfect at it, I don’t always keep it up, I probably fluctuate between -5 and +5 these days, but that is so much better than a solid -30.
I would not ask anyone to become a Buddhist monk, Zen master or spiritual healer, I would simply ask that you reclaim what is yours, a calm, clean and peaceful mind.
So, how do we meditate? The Morning Mind has a dedicated page to meditation containing a step by step guide. Check it out here, how to meditate. Properly giving meditation a go will honestly make a huge difference in your life and in your mental health. I highly and wholeheartedly recommend it.
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For some science-backed benefits of meditation check out this great article.