I’ll be honest: writing the following article has taken me a lot longer than I had anticipated. The more I began to write, the deeper I wanted to explore the powerful benefits of meditation, taking me further away from completion – and at the same time became increasingly aware of deterring potential readers by offloading an Everest sized mountain of words onto their screen.
I have now condensed this text as much as I can, whilst hopefully retaining enough of its substance. However, since the concept and practice of meditation is something that can be studied and delved into for a lifetime, I hope that the following will simply give you a brief introduction, whilst exciting enough interest to explore it more on your own. Let me also be very clear: I am no meditation expert and in no way delude myself with grandiose notions of being some enlightened Himalayan Guru. Although meditation is something that I have practiced for a few years now, I’m still a novice – but have felt increasingly passionate about doing my tiny bit in raising some awareness of its profound benefits.
The word ‘meditation’ tends to conjure up a wide variety of preconceptions and sometimes even negative connotations for many people. This seems to play a vital role in keeping the practice at a distance from the general population, even though the beneficial and transformative effects have been spoken of for literally thousands of years. Many of these benefits have been proven and reiterated by neurologists and psychologists during recent decades. Whilst some may believe that, like enlightenment, it is something reserved for monks and simply not accessible to a fast-paced, modern and urban society – others may view it as boring and a waste of time. Since the latter was something more akin to my initial viewpoint, allow me to briefly explain how that changed:
The first encounter came in Nepal back in 2008 during a week long introductory course to Tibetan Buddhism and meditation. It was an enjoyable few days, but I found the practice of meditating to be frustrating and tedious. I would sit peacefully and follow the instructions of the llama (an ex-psychiatrist from the USA) but would still find myself (my-self) to be incapable of quietening the relentless and compulsive thinking in my head. This guy was questioning almost everything that I had rooted my sense of self in and there was a huge amount of resistance to it. But, as the late great Alan Watts said “the most valuable insights come through questioning the most obvious forms of common sense”.
It was a restless mind that would ceaselessly and erratically wander, with no idea as to where it was going. Does that sound in any way familiar? Have you noticed the incessant stream of thought that arises in the mind? Are you able to stop or quieten it when you choose to?
As the years went by I kept up a fairly inconsistent and half-hearted routine of ‘meditation’, but was still struggling to understand what all the fuss was about. Why would anyone dedicate so much time to this?