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Most people think meditation and they think lotus flowers, Himalayan monks, and chakra points. Aside from all those things being objectively awesome, that couldn’t be farther from the modern reality.
Meditation, at its deepest level, is the acceptance of oneself and one’s surroundings. It’s the reverential: “I’m okay. It’s okay.”
It’s easy in today’s world to neglect the Self. And not neglect yourself as in lack of personal care, but neglect the Self in the sense of not taking time to be with oneself. Soul-search. We all have insecurities and emotional deficiencies, but our culture is built on avoiding those at all costs.
We thrive on distraction. If there’s ever a moment where it might be unpleasant to just sit and think, you never have to. You have Instagram. Queue Facebook. Oh, hello there, Twitter. Can’t forget about Reddit. Face it, what would you do without Snapchat? Hell, you even have Medium!
All these resources provide a great way to socialize and network, blow some steam even, but they can also be escapes. It’s much easier to run from the scary or uncomfortable parts of your psyche than it is to face them head-on.
Meditating is the epitome of just being. You don’t do anything. You don’t say anything. You don’t strive for anything. You simply are. It’s effortless. And if it’s not, it’s not meditation.
I like to think of it like water. Let’s start with water as runoff from melting snow high in the mountains. From the moment the water melts from the ice, it follows the path of least resistance. The water never tries. It lets gravity take it where it will, and by doing so, it can carve grooves into rocks, form massive canyons, create frothing monster rivers. I doubt many people would deny the power water has on our landscape, yet it does all this by simply letting go.
This is how meditating should be, and that’s really the only requirement. Sit down and let your thoughts take you where they will. Let it be effortless. Relinquish some control for a few minutes (which is a foreign concept in the 21st century). Silence, or even better, turn off the little box that captures so much of your attention every day. In essence, do nothing.
There’s the dichotomy I love in meditation: do nothing as opposed to always be productive. And by doing nothing you will achieve far greater things. Giving our mind and our bodies the time to reboot can have some amazing effects. Instead of slugging through the day trying to be so productive, we can take a few minutes, two or three times a day, to just sit and be. Be with our Self. Then we return to activity. We resume whatever we were doing before.
It’s this balance between rest and activity, being and doing that creates a sense of fulness, of fulfillment.
There’s no 'right way' but here’s how I do it.
There’s no “right way” to meditate. I know people who listen to guided meditations, some people just sit down and focus on their breathing, some like to do it in groups. These are all valid and viable ways to meditate.
I practice something called “Transcendental Meditation” or TM for short. It’s based on ancient wisdom from the Vedas (ancient Hindu scripture), but without getting too technical, it’s based on the use of a mantra.
A mantra is just a word (more like a sound, really) that one uses to guide the meditation. You repeat the mantra in your head until your mind inevitably gets distracted by a thought. Your mind will be lead down a thought train until you realize you’re meditating. Then, you simply return to the mantra. So, even in a single meditation, there’s this cycle of activity and rest, activity and rest.
Hurry up and do nothing.
In the end, I think we all know we need to disconnect a little more. Meditation is a great way to do so. It’s worked for a lot of people, it’s worked for me, it’s worked for countless people for thousands of years who helped develop this ancient knowledge.
But, like anything, all the knowledge in the world won’t do any good unless it leads to action. If you can get to the point where you’re sitting down, sans-smartphone, ready to meet your Self, that’s the whole battle right there. The rest, well that’s just hurrying up to do nothing.