Meditation is often perceived as monkish meanderings, an ambiguous activity, but when understood and implemented right, it is one of the most fundamental ways to improve our happiness…
From fist to fight, form to fury, boxing has one hone their force. But the mind is just as important. Thinking back to one philosophical post-box bus ride back, I was struck by the mindful implications of Coach Lewis’ session advice: ‘you can chat during the session, but only about boxing’. Focus is key to excelling in any field, but what if we apply this same principle to the most non-productive of occurrences: a bus ride home. What should you be focusing on? The answer is often; you’re not. Your mind is flitting around like a moth in a nightclub, honing on the briefest of lights, and then propelling itself to the next one. And if there is a big enough light that catches its fancy, it circles it restlessly until you tire yourself out.
If we step back, take time to ponder over whether this stream is actually useful, we soon realize that most of our thoughts are not only impractical, but counterproductive. Anyone stuck in a sleepless 1AM thought loop can attest to this: it’s not fun. Negative thoughts feed off proceeding ones, branch off each other, and thus the tree of our discontent grows. We hit a downward spiral. Even on a smaller level, feelings of insecurity in social situations often have the tendency to morph into graver rumination. Our focus in sport, work, studies, is impeded. When we should chill, we feel restless.
Happiness is clarity, completion. Momentum also; when we are happy we don’t let negativity hold us back, instead our positive thoughts feed of each other and drive us forward. So how do we escape these damaging thought loops to get that positive push? Intuitively the answer is clear. These thoughts are inherently worse than thinking nothing, that is why they are negative. So to defeat them, we focus on nothing. This is meditation.
Now the most common form of meditation, breathing meditation, involves closing your eyes, sitting still, and bringing your awareness towards your breath. ‘Hang on you spiritual scrub’, I hear you say, ‘you just said focus on nothing!’. But awareness of breath doesn’t mean thinking about breath, just merely being mindful of it. Like with any skill, this is hard to kickstart. As soon as you close your eyes you feel your consciousness swept away from the chill beach of your med goals. Your mothy mind is propelled in many directions. You start doubting if this zany zen is worth your time.
But the solution is simple: just bring your thought back to breath. At first the gaps between being wavily swept by the tide and reaching the shore again will be wide. But just as with anything, with hard work and focus you’ll be chilling by the med beach in no time. Soon you will be on the way to unlocking the meditative state; a magical zone of bliss where you are one with the moment and the moment alone.
So concretely how long does it take? For me ten-day incremental steps of five-min med, to ten, to fifteen every morning, timed by an alarm, sufficed. In a month, after a lot of doubt, the benefits came full force. I was less anxious, controlled my thoughts instead of overthinking and resultingly I struggled far less with sleep. Focus, confidence and awareness of the present; there is really no other activity one can perform to bring such major positive change to their life in such a short space of time
The very act of meditating entails an awareness that you are being lead away by your thought. For you are not your thoughts: you are that which selects your thought. When you begin your journey down the meditative road you realize that negativity is something that happens to you, but does not constitute who you are. Once you realize you have the power to think of nothing compared to thinking negatively, you can select out those damaging thoughts. You have an awareness of them, but that is all. And just like that, they’re gone.
Spartan rating: 5/5- Tough to get started with, but with persistence comes major mind-gains and boundless positivity!