What exactly is meditation, what are some common misconceptions and what can it achieve? We ask Super Bloom Festival headliners Chris Wilson (Founder of Yoke Yoga) and coach, speaker and meditation guide Kat John about our burning meditation questions.
image via pinterest
How do you describe meditation?
Chris: The practice of Meditation is becoming incredibly popular these days, and for good reason! Medical research is now backing up ttome of the many benefits meditators have been experiencing for thousands of years, things like decreased anxiety, increased productivity, increased attention span, improved pain management, healing for post-traumatic stress, improvement in relationships and the list goes on. Perhaps the most powerful benefit and the one that underlies all others, is that meditation offers us a deeper understanding of who we are.
Kat: If you’re ruled by negative, disempowering thoughts there’s a high chance you don’t feel so good. And when you don’t feel good you act and behave in ways that aren’t self-serving and are detrimental to the way you treat people. This only creates more negative thoughts, making yourself feel extra bad for self sabotaging and lashing out at people around you.
Like it or not, most of us wake up thinking about our problems of yesterday, searching for what’s missing in our lives, focusing that we didn’t get enough sleep and how terrible the day will be because of it. This leaves many of us overwhelmed and already on back-foot to life, creating feelings of anxiety, pressure and stress, which leads to rushing around, yelling at the kids, giving dirty looks to slow drivers, and so on.
So can you get rid of these thoughts? Nope, but you can change your relationship to them by first accepting that they aren’t going away. There’s no use wishing they’d be gone, rather, take it upon yourself to become the master of your mind through the practice of meditation.
To take the time to tune in, remind ourselves of what’s truly important, who we’d love to be and what we’d love to do shifts the mind into thinking more positively and inspires us to make empowered life changes.
What are some common misconceptions?
Chris: There are a few.
1. That meditation is about trying to quieten our thoughts.
Though there may be moments when thoughts are suspended, this is not the primary intention. In fact, if you have ever tried to stop your thoughts, particularly the more challenging ones, you’ll see that it’s a losing battle. We more often than not end up experiencing more irritation. You could say that meditation is more about getting to know the nature of thought – that is to observe and even welcome our thoughts (particularly the challenging ones). As we do this we gain a sense of perspective, we’re able to see thoughts arising without attaching to or giving extra meaning around them. We get to know the fickle nature of thoughts and eventually we may see them for what they are.
2. Meditation all about about sitting in a calm/stress free state
You may experience moments of calm or even bliss during meditation, however more often, and particularly as we’re starting out, all sorts of challenging feelings and emotions will arise. This is not only normal but totally appropriate! Similar to how we observe our thoughts; by allowing challenging emotions and feelings to arise (and even inviting them in) we are shifting our relationship with them. These experiences will still arise however we learn to meet them with kindness versus more resistance. In this way facing our lows – our anger, greed, depressions, anxieties, loneliness, fears – can be one of the most effective forms of mind purification.
3. Meditation is about finding some higher state or reaching enlightenment
We often have the pre-conceived notion that we need to get from here to somewhere in meditation. To reach some goal of enlightenment or some state of reality other than the one we are in right now. This is a misperception that can cause a lot of struggle. The more we search for something other than our current human experience the more we feel trapped. Meditation more around listening to where we are in this moment. By softening the search and embracing all that we are, we open the window to freedom.
4. I need to be sitting in Lotus Position to Meditate
By this is I mean sitting upright with legs crossed like a pretzel. Though this is a nice way to practice it is not the only way. In fact I would recommend learning to meditate lying down, standing up, walking, even while brushing your teeth! By practicing this way, mediation is not just something we drop into for 20 minutes each day, it’s something we can learn to do in every moment.
Meditation is not the act of sitting perfectly still, trying hard to do nothing, or having no thoughts whatsoever. Generally it involves focusing on a particular object, often the breath, a mantra, an intention, observing/watching the mind wandering, and returning it to what’s of focus. Through meditation, we develop a better relationship with the behaviour of our minds, and we increase our ability to regulate our experience of our environment, rather than letting our environment dictate how we experience life. With recent neuroscientific findings, meditation as a practice has been shown to literally rewire brain circuits that boost both mind and body health. These benefits of meditation have been mentioned alongside the revelation that the brain can be deeply transformed through repeated practices – a quality known as neuroplasticity.
What is the biggest positive about meditation?
Chris: I think one of best definitions I have come across about meditation was from my old teacher Erich Schiffman who said, “Meditation is the enquiry into Truth”. In other words it’s about simply listening into what’s arising in each moment. As we do this we notice that we’re experiencing different things such as sounds, smells, physical sensations in the body, the movement of our breath, emotions and thoughts. Our attachment to or identification with these experiences is what causes suffering. As we sharpen our listening during meditation we may notice that there is a part of us that is aware of it all – an observing presence or ‘awareness’. Much like clouds forming in the sky, everything we’re aware of is also arising in this awareness. As we learn to sense into this fundamental aspect of who we are, we begin to feel deeply LOVED. So one of the main insights in Meditation is that at our essence we are LOVE, the mind will forget this over and over, and through this ancient practice of meditation we remember.
Kat: A consistent meditation practice can be your medicine, an internal pharmacy that heals you from the inside out from the way you think, respond to and engage with people. It has been proven to show positive side effects such as:
– increased energy levels
– muscles relaxed and less tension
– deeper and more rested sleep
– sharper focus and mind control
– develop emotional intelligence
– deeper connection to self and others
– increase in creativity, ideas and motivation
One of the most valuable outcomes of meditation that I have seen in my clients is that they can now disassociate from their negative thoughts. They can observe the negative thought rather than believe it to be true, consciously choose a new empowering thought, which leads to a new empowering feeling and then an action to follow. Now that is freedom!
Mastering your mind is the single most important thing you can do for yourself, your loved ones and your life. If you live inside a troubled mind, you will create a reality that is miserable and it doesn’t have to be that way. Am I saying it’s easy? Nope, but I will say that it’s worth it.