May 3, 2020

7 day meditation: Being in the here and now

This past week, I went through a 7 day meditation course. We met 2 hours every day over a Zoom call. There were 24 of us who came in with the objective of learning meditation techniques. Led by the same teacher whose Yoga Teacher Training I signed up for, this course was meant to help us create a sustainable meditation practice. 

As a beginner, who has only experienced meditation in the form of guided meditations during yoga class or using the app Calm, this was basically new to me. While the meditation during our live sessions was guided, we were meant to also meditate 1-3 times a day outside of the class time without any guidance. 

My main takeaways from the past 7 days: 

1. Be in the here and now: the first rule, is the watch your breath (be in the here), and stay in the present (be in the now). On top of that, focus on your spiritual heart, which is a point in the body that you choose to focus on during the meditation session. 

2. Monkey mind: Our mind can be described as the monkey mind because it jumps all over the place, and we follow it. In actuality, we should strive to get to a point where our mind is not leading our awareness around, but our awareness controls our mind. 

3. Detach, detach, detach: When our mind comes up with thoughts and feelings while meditating, we can observe them as if we are observing another person with those thoughts and feelings. The fact that we can observe that other person with the thought or feeling implies that we are not that thought or feeling. This idea encourages us to detach from feelings such as irritation, anger, pride by observing the mind that experiences those emotions and recognising that it is not our identity. Another great way to detach from these thoughts is to recognise these are just products of the mind and are temporary, that will come and go. 

4. Focus on the breath: While meditation, ultimately, you want to just focus on the breath and the spiritual heart. In the beginning, there might be a lot of observing the anger, irritation, thoughts, happening. But eventually, those should just become background noise while you focus on breathing and being in the now. Everything else around you, including the room you're in and the body you're in should disappear from your awareness, which should be concentrated in the spiritual heart. 

5. Boredom is a construct: Many report that meditation is boring, especially as you get into the later minutes of your meditation when the urge to check the time becomes stronger. Boredom is a construct, one that we don't have to believe. 

6. Sitting posture is important to stay focussed: When we sit cross legged or in a kneeling sitting pose during meditation, the slight engagement in the core and the effort to keep our back upright helps us avoid lethargy in a way that might put us to sleep. If we were lying down or leaning against a backrest during meditation, it might put us to sleep during the meditation practice!

7. The four stages of meditation: When you first start to practice, you are seeing a lot of different experiences that you are trying to discern (stage 1). Then you develop a muscle that lets you practice detachment from all those different experiences of the mind (stage 2). Stage 3 is when you start to disidentify with the body and the mind, and start to distance your awareness from those things. The last stage is wisdom, which is when you realise the true, eternal and infinite nature of who you are. 

Following the meditation course, I certainly found myself more awake during the day even if I hadn't slept as much and with an increased focus that didn't make me feel exhausted when I came out of it. I still think I'm around stage 1 or 2 and have a long way to go, but just the act of sitting still for a few minutes everyday undoubtably has its benefits, whether or not you are an expert at being in the here and now!

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