Meditation – What is it exactly?
Wikipedia says, “Meditation is a practice where an individual operates or trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content or as an end in itself.”
I used to believe it was thinking with your eyes closed. I didn’t know there are many ways to alter your consciousness. In fact, you can meditate with your eyes open, as when you focus on an object.
The type of Buddhist tradition from which modern Mindfulness springs is called ‘Vipassana.’ This sort of meditation involves concentrating on the body or its sensations, or the insight which this provides. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn distilled this practice for use with his patients in Massachusetts.
These patients were just random individuals grouped together in the hospital because they were suffering extreme pain.
But they had the desire to try something new when all else failed. And it helped them more or less. The incentive was there. Out of Kabat-Zinn’s study came the MBSR course. This course (Mindfulness based Stress Reduction) is open and beneficial to all. Google uses it at their HQ, it is used in the National Health Service for Mental Health and Pain. It is being trailed for many different conditions now because it is a drug-free way to treat often desperate adults and children.
“Mindfulness meditation is practiced sitting with eyes closed, cross-legged on a cushion, or on a chair, with the back straight. Attention is put on the movement of the abdomen when breathing in and out, or on the awareness of the breath as it goes in and out the nostrils. If one becomes distracted from the breath, one passively notices one’s mind has wandered, but in an accepting, non-judgmental way and one returns to focusing on breathing.”
You should try to do this right now. Focus on the breath going in and out or the movement of the abdomen (lower belly) while breathing. The directions are easily understood, but practice is needed to keep the attention focused or you thoughts will highjack you away from your intentions.
However, beginners are at an advantage over many longtime practitioners. This is because every time you lead your mind back to the breath, you are strengthening your Mindfulness muscle.
So do not be discouraged or beat yourself up. Rather it is a time for thanking yourself for finding time in the first place and, secondly, a start building the foundation of further meditation.