Meditation (part 1)

Posted: December 28, 2012 in Integral Studies, Pedagogy & Education, Philosophical Debris

This is an excerpt from the book I’ve just finished writing called “Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll and the Intelligent Teenager”.  It is the segment of the book which discusses the benefits of meditation.  I’m currently writing a part 2 which won’t be in the book, but adds one very important point to this.  I’ll try to publish it tomorrow or the day after.

MEDITATION

Meditation?  What?  You mean like don’t do anything.  Just sit there with your eyes closed, maybe make funny noises.  What could be more boring?  Give me a chance here.  Don’t stop reading yet.  Just give me a page or two.

Meditation gets a bad rap because it is so often seen in stereotypical situation involving peace, tranquility, flowers and sitar music.  Oh, and lava lamps.  Any martial art taken to an advanced level makes serious use of different forms of meditation.  Ninjas probably most of all, but many others such as Kung Fu and Karate have a heavy meditation component because they recognise that mind and body are closely linked.  Tom Brown, a frequent instructor of Navy Seals in the U.S., includes many components of meditation in his teaching, using it to hone intuitive skills.  Tantric meditation and yoga are used to make sex more exciting and intense.  Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a psychological technique being used by a lot of businesses now, and is really just a form of meditation.  Meditation can help you sleep better, remember better, stay illness free and improve your life in many other ways.  It’s not just flowers and beads.

One of the most basic ways in which someone can direct attention inwards is through the discipline of meditation.  There are various forms.  The most simple is to just sit quietly and relaxed, and allow distractions to leave your mind.  Often this involves concentrating on just one, lone thing.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to count your breaths, 1…2…3…4.  and then repeat.  So every four breaths you start at 1 again and you just keep repeating this.  In the beginning, you’ll find that probably only a minute or two goes by before you’ve lost count and your mind is moving in some weird direction with unrelated thoughts.  Then you just go back to counting again, and concentrate on just the counting.  When distracting thoughts spring up, you dismiss them, pushing them aside, sticking with the counting.  The more you practice, the better you get although distracting thoughts may never entirely go away.  But, you may ask, how do I get from there to great sex or Ninja skills?  It seems a pretty big leap.

This practice of dismissing distractions and keeping the mind focused on just one thing (or eventually on nothing at all) produces a whole waterfall of interesting side effects.  It strengthens powers of concentration.  Dismissing distractions is great for everything from improving concentration to helping you sleep at night.  It’s relaxing and de-stressing.  It is much like sleep in some ways as it allows your mind to sort itself out and move towards a state of balance. You find that other people are not as irritating.  In that quiet balanced state you seem to become more receptive and aware of things around you, and also within yourself.

As you go through your daily life your mind is often a chaos of voices that won’t shut up.  Sometimes if you want to quietly consider something, your mind won’t let you because those voices just won’t stop.  These are the voices of all of the selves, clamouring for attention and wanting a say in whatever you’re doing.  They interrupt each other and don’t allow some to speak at all.  (The ones they don’t allow to speak may be the most important ones for the situation you’re in.)  Few people have discipline in their mind, so the chaos rules, or they just react to situations with automatic responses.  Tom Brown states that quieting the mind is like having the water in a pond become calm.  In the calm water you can see an accurate, clear reflection of reality.  When the wind blows, the ripples in the water distorts the reflection the way that chaotic thoughts distort your perception of reality.  Those chaotic thoughts are shadows and other selves overlaying emotions and presuppositions on whatever we see or hear or think.  Our brains have this need to make sense out of everything and so often provides that sense and meaning by superimposing presuppositions and emotions.  For example, if you go into a room and you see people whispering, if you lack personal confidence you might think that they are talking about you and feel bad.  Another person would see it totally differently, just walk into the room and have a great time.  Quieting the mind and clearing out distractions help us to clear out the chaotic thoughts and see things uncoloured by our own prejudice.

Clearing out the thoughts that constantly clutter up our minds allows us to also access other parts of our mind that often go unused.  I’ve heard many stories of athletes who use meditation to visualize a desired outcome.  The one thing that they focus on is not counting to four but rather a particular skill like shooting a basket or scoring a goal in hockey.  I’ve read about pole vaulters who will go into a state of meditation and then strongly visualize a successful  jump before doing it.  Visualizing that action with all of its detail tells the muscles in the body what they need to do to execute the action successfully.  It is really telling a deep, subconscious part of our mind what we want it to do, and then getting out of the way and letting it do it.  It’s actively reprogramming the subconscious sub-routines that propel us.

We also have strong powers of intuition that often go unheeded or unused.  That deep, subconscious part of our mind notices far more subtle things in the environment, such as body language or air pressure or tracks on the ground and is capable of processing that information in a way to help make a decision.  You may have a “hunch” or “intuition” that it is going to rain.  You may have a “feeling” that you are being watched or that a situation is dangerous.  You may have a “gut sense” that you are doing the wrong thing.  These are not feelings to be ignored.

As your mind is strengthened by all of these things, by concentration, by relaxation, by improved connection with all parts of your selves  and your mind, you will find many other doors beginning to open.  You will find your sense of intuition improve.  You will find yourself more in control of your emotions.  You will find an ability to understand and tolerate other people.  Your relationships will improve. Your health will improve.  Your decision making will get you to your goals more often.  You will have more control over your body, including sexually.  Resilience, the ability to bounce back with a positive attitude after a failure, will be strengthened.  You will be happier.

People with inner confidence usually project outer confidence.  This improves your social life and makes you far less likely to attract negative attention from bullies.  If you are approached by bullies, the composure that you would be able to show would make it less likely that the bully would see you as a victim and would probably move on.  Teens with confidence are far more likely to be supportive of a victim of bullying because they tend to be more empathetic.  And certainly, someone who is more happy with themselves is very unlikely to become a bully.  A bully is usually a very unhappy, unbalanced person.

Meditation helps to clear the path of communication with your subconscious mind, which has a lot of control over your body, your emotions and even your thoughts.  If your subconscious is happy it is more likely to do what your conscious mind wants.  For example, your subconscious mind controls your immune system, which in turn influences your general health and ability to repel diseases.  A subconscious that is mad at you or doesn’t understand why you’re working so hard  and wants to sabotage you can make you ill.  It’s a quick way of solving a problem because you get immobilized.  But a proper relationship and balance between your conscious and subconscious selves will produce harmony and everything that goes with it.

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