When I was in high-school, one of the courses that was mandatory to take was religion (catholic high-school). In grade 11, the religion course focused on word religions. We learned about Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, Buddhism, essentially every religion except Catholicism. It was quite interesting really, to understand how different each religion is, how they worshiped their deities, how many deities they worshiped, and so on. One religion particularly peaked my interest. Its teachings of non-materialism, the eight paths to a peaceful life, the mechanism of self-control, and their deity.
Buddhism is a very interesting religion to learn about. I’m definitely not going to try to teach you about the religion because well, I’m not Buddhist and I would hate to butcher such a beautiful religion, but I will discuss the beauty of one of their most important practices. Before that, I want to introduce you to a man by the name of Siddhartha Gautama.
Siddhartha Gautama was, like you and I, an ordinary person. Well actually, he was a prince. One day, at the young age of 29, Siddhartha left his palace and encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic (people who practice abstinence from material items). Reflecting on what he had seen, Siddhartha strove to overcome aging, sickness, and death by living a life of asceticism and meditation. After realizing that meditation was the right path to spiritual awakening, not extreme asceticism, he discovered the middle way. The Middle Way is a path of moderation, distancing oneself from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. Continuing his teachings of meditation, Siddhartha reached Enlightenment, otherwise known as Nirvana. Being the first person to ever reaching Nirvana, Siddhartha became known as the Awakened One, also referred to as Buddha.
Within the religion of Buddhism, you have the eighth-fold path, the four noble truths, and the practice of meditation, among other things of course. Meditation is an incredibly important practice in Buddhism, for without meditation, one cannot practice peace and serenity to achieve enlightenment. Specifically, meditation allows an individual to operate and train the mind to induce modes of consciousness that allow the mind to engage in peaceful thoughts. There are many kinds of meditation, each designed to promote relaxation and peaceful reflection.
Meditation does have its perks, not only because it allows you to get one step closer to reaching Nirvana, but because of the cognitive benefits. Meditation can reduce stress, improve concentration and well-being, but it also increases self-awareness, encourages a healthy lifestyle, improves cardiovasulcar health, I could go on forever. From personal practice, meditation has made me much more calm and in tune with my emotions, less irritable, and I’ve even performed better in school. Such a simple practice with so many benefits, that you too can participate in. Let me tell you how.
Firstly, you’ll need a calm, open, non-cluttered space. Cluttered spaces can be overwhelming so it’s best to stay away. It needs to be comfortable. Some people invest in meditation pillows, I simply use a folded blanket, lay it on the ground, and sit on it. You could also sit comfortably in a chair.
Next, if you’re sitting on the floor, cross your legs not too tightly but not too loosely. Have your hands at your side or on your knees, whichever is most comfortable. It is incredibly important to be as comfortable as possible. Make sure to have your back straight, not slouching over. While meditating you may choose to have your eyes open or closed. I prefer closed.
Now that you’re in position, it’s time for the hardest part. Clearing your mind. Everyday we experience events throughout our day that may evoke strong emotions within us. Sitting down for a few minutes may seem like hours. When any thought, emotionally triggering or not, pops up in your mind, acknowledge that you’re thinking and say “think” and proceed back to a blank mind. Whenever any kind of thought pops up, repeat the word think (or any word of your choice). You’re not ignoring your thought, you’re simply saying I’ll deal with you when I’m done.
It may be hard to get into the hang of meditating, especially if you’re a very busy person. I used to be this way, I used to think I never had time to sit down and do nothing. So I started my meditation sessions at 10 minutes. What felt like hours eventually turned to what felt like only a few seconds. So I upgraded. 20 minutes. Then 30 minutes. Eventually reaching 1 hour of meditation a day.
By all means, you don’t have to meditate for an hour a day. Take this as a how-much-I-see-fit practice. Before you know it, you’ll be a meditation master.