“The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates
Meditation refers to all the practices that we know of from contemplative traditions over thousands of years.Though it may have mystical connotations, how can we use it as a tool to know ourselves better? How can we translate the teachings from the language of these age old practices to a language that is understood & processed by highly pragmatic and sometimes even skeptical over stimulated minds of today? How can these practices be used to help people succeed in life or work?
Most of the time we are so engaged with our minds & emotions, that there is no awareness of a filter that exists & is available to us. When we can sit, we can actually take a step back as a witness to all the creations & processes of our mind. And when we get better at developing a deeper awareness of each emotion, we can literally watch the start of it, the end of it & all the subtle moments in between.
So the benefits of a seated practice are not as obvious as a physical practice of asana. There is no visual difference in our appearance ( even though we may have a clear skin with all that stress reduction ? ).During the process there is no one to please or impress or compete with either.And it can get really uncomfortable in the beginning especially when we are not used to have such close conversations with ourselves & our breath. But the benefits of meditation are far reaching.It helps us train attention which is the core of building emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is defined as
“ The ability to monitor one’s own and others feelings and emotions to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” 1,2
A calm quality of our mind, having the tools to understand our selves & creating mental habits that are useful not only for us but also for the others around us helps us extend the benefits of practice into daily lives.
Why not commit to a daily practice?
Decide a length of time , 5 minutes to start with and then progressively increasing the minutes daily.It is really like building a muscle , requires daily practice along with an increase in challenge to allow the mental muscle to grow.
Anytime of the day, as there is no wrong time to meditate.Select a space which is atleast comfortable and undisturbed. Sit up with a straight spine, legs crossed or grounded on the earth (if sitting on a chair), hips relaxed, jaws relaxed, soft eyes & forehead and most importantly slow relaxed effortless breathing.
Stay.This can be challenging.As soon as we find that position, we may lose it to a nose itch, knee pain or something else.That is the nature of our minds. But with practice we do find that space when everything ceases, even if its for a few moments of emptiness in our minds.The breath can be the object of our meditation.Feel your inhales & exhales.Become aware of the gap between your inhalation &exhalation.When the mind drifts, bring it back to anchor on your breath. Be kind & patient with your breath.These moments of drifting and combing back to the breath is an important part of the practice. Overtime the sweet space of stillness & presence grows which then shows up in our habits, behavior and nature that definitely shines out into our lives.
1.Peter Salovey and John D.Mayer, “Emotional Intelligence”, Imagination, Cognition, and Personality9, no1(1990):185-211
2.Search Inside Yourself, Chade-Meng Tan