Hello progressers! This article will provide you with some basic concepts regarding meditation and in the end I will reveal the type of meditation that I personally choose after a few years of trial and error.
With the rapid advancement of technology and the quick access to information, personal development practices are becoming more and more popular among people who seek self-growth. We know that in order to achieve the things that we want in life we need to put to work our imagination and be laser-focused on the things we need to do. And to make sure we can always do the things we love and leave a long happy life, we need to keep ourselves healthy through regular practices. It is common that when someone wants to improve an aspect of their lives they will usually begin with exercising more, adopting a new diet or trying to give up a bad habit. Those are all great things to do, but fewer people know that there actually is a practice that, when done right and consistently, can help our imagination, our focus and our health, all from the comfort of our homes.
Here is why people struggle most often to improve their mental well-being: because at first glance it seems to be more ambiguous and harder to see tangible results. But that can not be farther from the truth: meditation is being practiced for thousands of years and lately modern scientific studies revealed a lot of benefits associated with it. One recent study found a significant cortical thickness increase in individuals who underwent a brief 8 weeks mindfulness meditation training program and that this increase was coupled with a significant reduction of several psychological indices related to worry, state anxiety and depression.
So, the same way we train our body in order to stay in shape and enjoy physical health, we also have to train our mind so that we can become more productive, more focused, and improve our thinking.
There are lots of types of meditation: from the highly experienced buddhist monks who can meditate for hours or even days in one sitting to practices that require movement or the ingestion of certain substances. For the purpose of this article we will only take a look at the most common meditation practices, the ones that we can adopt as daily habits that will make us feel and work better.
1. Mindfulness Meditation
One of the most popular meditation types in the west, it’s an excellent choice if you are searching for ways of improving your focus, reducing stress, fear and worry and be more aware in general. You can start by creating a short routine (5-10 minutes) every day that consists of you sitting on a floor or a chair, and try to think about nothing else but being in the present moment. There are a lot of ways of doing that: close your eyes and focus on the breathing, mark a dot on a wall and try to concentrate in that direction, light a candle and focus only on the light, etc. Try to keep your thoughts directed only to the activity / object you choose. If you are a beginner, you will observe this is not an easy thing to do, in around 8 seconds some thoughts will come to steal your attention. The key here is for you to notice when your mind is wandering away and bring your attention back to the present moment. After practicing this for a while, you will catch yourself throughout the day daydreaming or thinking about ‘unimportant stuff’ and in that moment you can switch your attention to the things that are more important. With time, it will be easier for you to stay concentrated on certain things for longer periods and also to avoid unhealthy decisions. You can find a very good video describing the basics of mindfulness on Leo’s channel
Knowingly or not, the majority of high performers use visualization as a tool that helps them achieve their goal: the athletes see themselves surrounded by throfeys, the businessmen see themselves receiving congratulations from people they care about, etc. The subconscious mind cannot differentiate real things from imaginary ones and when you visualize a certain thing, over and over again, your brain adapts to the new circumstances that you provide. That means, the belief in yourself will increase, you will radiate more confidence and the chances of you achieving the desired goal will increase. Visualization is an extremely powerful tool and numerous studies have been done to test this. One of the most popular of them is the basketball experiment:
|A study conducted by Dr. Biasiotto at the University of Chicago was done where he split people into three groups and tested each group on how many free throws they could make.
After this, he had the first group practice free throws every day for an hour.
After 30 days, he tested them again.
The first group improved by 24%.
Here is a simple way to begin the practice of visualization:
Find a place where you can sit and try to relax. Close your eyes and follow your breathing as it goes in and out, at least 5 times, and while you do that try to roll your eyes a bit upwards. This will shift your brain waves into the “alpha state” – a state of mind where you are more susceptible of accepting ideas. After you did that, try to think about a period in time when you felt really good about yourself. It could be anything: receiving a promotion, a present, a gift, a compliment. It is important to feel the gratitude of having lived that moment, and for the next few minutes really try to relive that scene that you remembered: how you felt, what were you seeing, hearing, tasting or touching.
Now you are in the perfect state to begin your visualization. Slowly shift you mind into thinking about a goal that you want to achieve, and see it as if it already happened. Try to keep the same feeling of gratitude that you felt previously when you remembered beautiful past events. This feeling usually appears like a joy sensation between your abdomen and your chest (think about the way you usually feel when you are expecting something good is about to happen). You will then link this sensation to the achievement of your goal, making you already grateful for what you want to accomplish. Like stated before, try to bring all of your senses into this exercise, and make the vision as real as possible. Do this exercise regularly for a while and you will begin to see new unexpected opportunities.
3. Present Visualization
Until now we only touched a bit the subject of meditation, presenting you with the most popular types that you can practice by your own and gradually increase your experience. As you become more and more experienced, you will realize what works best for you. It is good to start with some general directions, but after a while you will see what helps you most: is it the mindfulness part that helps you to remain focused? Is the visualization part more appealing because it opens your eyes more at opportunities to achieve your goals? Does gratitude make you feel a lot better? Do you feel more empowered after you recite your favorite mantra?
Finding what works best for yourself is thus very important, because we have different goals and we think differently. For Tonny Robbins, plain mindfulness just didn’t seem to work, so he meditates using the method of “priming” (a composition of gratitude, prayer and visualization) that you can find detailed here.
“Present visualization” is the way I choose to meditate after trying different things in the last years.
What I found works best for me is starting with a gratitude part, where I feel really grateful about the big and small things in my life, then I visualize my most important goals as they already happened, and then I go into a mindfulness phase. And here is the trick: I try to keep myself in the present, but with the feeling of overwhelming gratitude and happiness that I got from part 1 & 2 of the meditation. Holding that joyful feeling in the present moment feels very fulfilling.
In conclusion I must reiterate the importance of meditation in our busy day and age as a powerful tool for keeping your mind strong, and the importance of finding whatever works best for you.