Mindfulness Meditation
    • Insight, letting go, inner happiness

Why Meditate?

by on 01 January


Meditation is training to practice mindfulness in daily living. Just as you might go to the gym regularly to keep your body fit and strong, you need to train your mind through regular meditation in order to be mindful – to pay attention – during the day. However, as the study outline said, “It is very common for people engaged in mindfulness practice to discontinue meditation after a period of time”.


The study focuses on how and why people maintain a meditation practice, and the challenges involved. It should assist counsellors/teachers to help their clients/students benefit from continuous meditation and mindfulness.


The first step was to qualify to participate in the study. I had to have regularly practiced formal mindfulness meditation – defined in the study as meditating for at least 20 uninterrupted minutes three days per week on average for at least two consecutive years. The practice could be: sitting meditation, body scan, walking meditation, or mindful yoga. I was deemed to be eligible and the interview proceeded.


The first question - what do I do to persist in the practice, to ensure that it will continue regularly? I told her I do enjoyable “prep” work before meditating. I wake up looking forward to a cup of coffee, classical music and inspiring literature before I sit. Then, I do 10 minutes of yoga to “wake up” my body before pulling out my meditation bench.


I make it as easy as possible, just as I do going to the gym. I standardize everything, to avoid having to “re-think” my practice each time. I aim to do it every day, at the same time, as early as possible. Doing it early ensures that it happens, and that my mind will be more able to meditate - not yet “caught up” in the events of the day. I usually begin about 7 am.


I time each meditation with a chime to announce the end, to avoid having to look at my watch or think about when I will stop.


I keep a log of time spent – minutes per day. This tells me how well I’m doing (or not!) to achieve my target, monthly and yearly. It helps that I love statistics.


And, about once per month, I meet with kindred spirits to meditate and discuss the practice.


This regime is what I’ve followed in retirement. When I worked, meditating was more difficult, so I had less standardization and a more modest target.


The second question - what things would interrupt my practice? My answer - having or being a house guest, and busy forms of travel.


The third question was most important - what motivates me to continue the practice? I gave three answers.


First, to know what a calm, peaceful mind is like, and to be able to make it happen when I want or need it. It’s a beautiful, empowering tool to always have with me.


Second, to know how to improve the quality of each day - each experience - whether it’s pleasant, unpleasant or neutral (neither pleasant nor unpleasant).


-        To make a neutral experience more interesting by being curious and investigating it – whether waiting to pay for groceries, or shovelling the  driveway.


-        To find relief when I experience anxiety or discontent, by letting go of such thoughts which are rarely useful. Or by observing the thoughts, and the feelings they cause, and waiting for them to subside. And, if they persist, to reflect upon and analyse them to find the deeper cause – and, in so doing, to gain mental distance from them. And to craft a strategy to respond to them in the future.


-        And to know that a pleasant experience is likely one of a kind, so dive into it. Everything in life – not to mention life itself – is temporary. I like to be awake for it as much as possible.


And, third, to gradually learn about my habits – habits of thought and feelings, speech and behaviour - and about my opinions and perspectives. To decide which ones don’t help me be peaceful and happy. And to practice letting go of these unwholesome habits.


My faith in these mindful practices lead me early in the morning - when I’m reading something fascinating, listening to Bach, and would love another coffee – to turn off the music, close the book, and pull out my yoga mat and meditation bench. Because, for me, the mental training is totally worth the self-understanding, calm and confidence, ease of living and joy that mindfulness makes possible.

3 Comments

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