Meditation may not be what you think
Holding your finger and thumb in closed position, chanting, and the lotus pose are the least important aspects of meditation, but they are the images that come to mind. The internet is full of images suggesting the same idea - meditation is ritual and metaphysical.
Meditation can be a spiritual ritual, but it's more effective to treat it as a practical physical and mental tool. Still the picture persists.
A brief Google Search for images revealed thousands similar to the one below. When you think in your mind of meditation, you envision this, right? Why?
Pop-culture told you that this is meditation, all about appearance and nothing about the inside of the skull. For me, this image is silly and cliche, masking and mocking a tool that can be a real force.
The picture would better capture meditation if it were blank. The meditation is what you do not see within the woman's subjective experience. The hokey Buddhist statuary, the expensive yoga mat and pad, and what the hell? Is that a canoe in the background? The woman is a vision of expensive discomfort rather than peace. This is Ikea and McDonald's yoga.
Towards clarity in meditation
Traditionally, meditation has been elevated to a plain that is not useful. Listen to Voltaire's flowery phrases about the practice:
Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.
Blah, blah, blah. Voltaire sounds metaphysical and elitist. Voltaire believes he can capture the magic of mental processes in words, and while he is excellent, he misses the mark. I don't worry about connecting with infinity, the universe, or anything but myself.
No, Merriam-Webster's definition of meditation is sufficiently simple (one might even cut post-colon):
to focus one's thoughts on: reflect on or ponder over.
The essence of meditation
Meditation refers to what you do with your mind - focus and clarify. You can meditate standing up, drawing a picture, exercising, and pondering - no yoga mat or incense needed. Focusing your mind in a particularly profitable way makes the core of meditation.
A recent Ted Talk will show you what I mean and dazzle you at the same time. Andy Puddicombe in just a few short minutes captures an authentic vision of what meditation is, and more importantly, what it ain't. Take a moment and enjoy the video.
Meditation and mindfulness is as easy as that, and don't overcomplicate it. As with any tool, focusing your mind is most useful as a tool if you can accomplish it easily and frequently. Practice and process are meditation.
Meditating on the fly: Worktime empowerment
In the images below, along with a beautiful sunrise and wife are three simple ways to get the mental job done, and it doesn't matter if you meditate for an hour or 5 minutes. Sit on your chair, lay down on the floor, sit on a pillow. Do you see the simplicity of tapping into great power frequently and for short periods? Remember simplicity and beauty or the moments might be stressful for you.
Set some meditation goals
The nice thing about this workout its ultimate flexibility. You can do it anytime and anyplace, and if fact, just staring into space can get the job done. Here is one quick method guaranteed to work (just to get you started with your own individualized routine):
One of the exciting things for me is that this is only one form of simple meditation. You can meditate through sight by focusing on a small object and clearing your mind of all else. You can stand at the water cooler, take a cool sip, a few deep breaths, and feel the power that comes as your mind relaxes.
Use your imagination to find brief moments throughout the day to superpower your mind and body.
A skeptical clarification
Meditation and mindfulness have trended in the past few years, proclaiming any number of beneficial or outrageous health effects. One example from theStar Tribune:
Propelled by technological breakthroughs in neuroscience enabling researchers to monitor brain activity, the medical community is awash in studies showing that meditating has beneficial physical effects on the brain. Those studies are being joined by others demonstrating that advantages include everything from raising the effectiveness of flu vaccines to lowering rejection rates for organ transplants.
As with all things cognitive and neurological, predictions and preliminary studies must be viewed skeptically. Please note that throughout this piece I have focused on the immediate values of meditation and mindfulness: increased focus, reduced stress, refreshed mind, etc.
I view myself as a scientist at heart and perhaps fail make distinctions between what version of science I am discussing. I make no claims beyond what I state, and I wait for science to validate or invalidate other claims of pseudoscience and pop-science.
I do not for a moment believe that meditation can help you hang onto an organ transplant.
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