People often view meditation as a simple chance to relax and take a quick mental vacation from a hectic day full of responsibility. Meditation is actually an active process in which you develop a relationship with your state of mind, and work with that state of mind in a creative, controlled and productive way. Yes, it can be relaxing –– but it can also be a catalyst for positive change if you’re feeling depressed, as well as a pillar for continued mental growth.
There are typically two motivations for people wanting to get involved with meditation. Either they are uncomfortable with their current state of mind and looking to meditation for a medicinal effect (increasing general peace of mind and harmony while doing so), or they are looking to maintain positive inspiration in their life. This person already feels mentally awake, open-hearted, and at ease with their state of mind.
Whichever motivation you have for meditating, you should always be open to the other alternative. If you’re uneasy, look to the possibility that you can increase your self-awareness and improve your mood through practice. If you’re already content, consider your discomfort as well as your meditative practice.
So, how do you go about meditating? Just like most other endeavors, you need to seek out good instruction and practice a technique that’s been proven both efficacious and productive for other people who meditate. Sitting down in a quiet room, crossing your legs, and humming won’t work. You need tools to draw from.
There are many meditative techniques in the traditional Buddhist arc, but the most basic is “shamata,” or mindfulness. It’s the ability to focus your attention directly on (or near) the task at hand –– rather than practicing a scattered opportunity of awareness. Shamata dictates that you focus on a single aspect of your meditation, like the breath, and use it as a way to center your mind and bring it back to a single-pointed concentration.
Carving out a few minutes a day to hone your meditation is key, and is also how you will learn to take these tools and apply them through continued practice –– gaining increased control of your thought process and general state of mind while doing so.