Benefits of meditation
As the world is locked down and people from Mumbai to Miami, from Melbourne to Milan, are being forced to stay inside; how we manage this new way of living is vital so we can come out of it with some sense of psychological fortitude. Surviving this crisis, for most people, is going to be more about one's mental strength than physical. Being inside one's mind, alone with our thoughts, can for many be a frightening proposition. As a species we have become used to having countless social interactions every day. How can we cope with the drastic change in social contact, especially as we have been trained to avoid being alone with our thoughts?
Well, if we are forced to be alone with our minds, then being alone with our minds must become a more durable process. It is commonly accepted that you cannot change your mind after childhood, you can learn new things, but the way your mind works is set once you have reached adulthood. It does seem that most of us are genuinely unaware that it is possible to change our minds. At what age do we learn to have better conversations with others? At what age do we learn to have better conversations with ourselves? If it can be accepted that having a fulfilling conversation with others is something that is more achievable in our twenties than in our teens, then can it not be acceptable to say that the conversations we have with ourselves, inside our own minds, can also be improved?
The conversations we have with ourselves, the very structure of our thinking, is the cause of almost all of our problems in life; the argument you had with your partner, the worry you feel when watching the news or the sleepless nights you have had worrying about the current pandemic. These are all the same thing because they must all go through the same filter of your conscious mind. And if your mind is not trained, and you have not developed techniques to control your negative thoughts, then you will always be a victim to them, a slave to your own mind.
Part of the answer to the mind training puzzle is meditation, or mindfulness. Now, the usual instinct, especially in the West, when someone mentions mediation, let alone mindfulness, is scornful derision. “Meditation is for hippies and celebrities” the response usually goes. However, this is a misstep. There was a time when physical exercise was something only a very strange person would do, and smoking was seen as a healthy pass time. It is possible for entire cultures to have a blind spot, and this is ours. There really is nothing more important in your world than having the ability to better control your thoughts and meditation is the answer.
Once you know how to meditate, you start to realise that almost all of the problems in our lives are born from a lack of insight into our own mental state. All of the conflicts between people, all of the confusion in people's lives, these are all symptoms of their minds being totally out of control. The next time you feel angry, sad, regretful or full of worry, how long will you spend locked in that negative emotion? How long will you let it distract you from other things? And how many of your relations with other people will you damage along the way? What indelible mark will you make on your life?
One of the benefits of meditation is that you can let go of negative emotions, you can decide how long to feel angry or anxious. That is nothing short of a superpower, especially in today's world. You can get off the ride, before you do, say or feel something that could cause damage to you and the ones you love. The benefit of meditation is so much more than an ability to control one's emotions; however, at this moment in time, there is no greater skill than the ability to control negative emotions and have access to your full conscious thought.
I am in no way an expert on meditation, I am the proverbial novice. Yet even in my early stages of practice, I have been fortunate enough to experience the benefits of it daily. The battle that we face today will be won or lost inside our own minds, so best we provide ourselves with the necessary tools for victory.
by Liam O'Connor