Do you ever stop? Do you ever take the time out to just indulge and enjoy a few precious moments of quiet contemplation? Or are you too concerned with the ‘to do’ list to consider any interruption to the forward momentum you create every morning?
You may be doing yourself a disservice? Having the time to stop and to indulge in what is settling and contemplative is proven to be a way to open up pathways and ideas and avenues that allow you to activate alternative neurological processes as well as utilising the hidden pathways that you may have forgotten or more likely supressed.
For many the word meditation brings up images of robed individuals sitting in incense laden rooms with coloured cushions and a weird swaying and chanting regime which makes them appear like they’ve all had too much inhalant from tye-dying their clothing. But the reality is that meditation is a stilling process which is as varied and as simplistic as just sitting and being restful. As a quoted article puts it - “The purpose of meditation is to clear the subconscious”
So what is the way of meditation? For each individual, it’s an individual choice. Everyone thinks mediation is hard – and it is. Monks devote many of their waking hours and indeed their lifespan to meditation. To emptying the mind and clearing the conscious to allow clarity and understanding and a platform of complete balance from which to approach the world. Very few of us can hope to achieve or ‘choose’ to achieve that kind of perspective.
Meditation is a distinct state that is achieved in different ways for each different person. It is not apt for everyone to sit in a room of stillness with the sounds of the world repressed and denied in soundproof glass, the occasional gong going off in the background and the scent of Laura Ashley lavender candles in the air. For some just being able to stand in a glade with a scene in front of them and actually imbibing in the sounds around them is the best way to indulge in a meditative state. For others it can be a physical pathway, stilling the mind via quiet sustained physical actions that promote that sense of clarity. Many runners attest to this – it’s the ‘zone’. It is a form of meditation.
Take the office environment. The action of taking the coffee break together, of going outside the office to have a ‘smoko’ break has complete benefits and can be a way of accessing the ‘quiet state’ relative to what is the norm of the boardroom or office environment. This change in the landscape can be a meditation of sorts. A change in the external stimuli that helps shift brain activity, accessing more creative or alternative nuerological pathways. This is often where major deals have been struck, agreements reached or ideas formulated. Perhaps it’s the reason golf was invented. To get executives out of the office and out on the green where they can still negotiate, share, formulate in an alternative environment. Well ok, maybe just older, male, gentrified executives but nonetheless – it has a purpose!
But as with all things beneficial, it’s important to find ‘your way’ to the system. To tweak and to discover how ‘you’ work within that realm to access what it is. I know for myself that meditation could only be accessed by first exhausting my physical self. Well maybe not exhausting but calming down the physical. To get to the point where the physical was suppressed enough to engage the quiet stillness of the mental. When I think about it perhaps the only amount of meditation that I actually achieved in a day was 15min, but it took 45min to get to that point where the meditation happened. But that worked for me. And still does.
It’s not all ‘buddhas and candles’. Sometimes silence can be the worst enemy of meditation. Like anything, this takes practice. It’s very difficult to sit in a room for 30min, without moving, without speaking, without external stimulation – and just be. You can’t expect to do it straight away. Start small. 10min is actually hard enough. If you can start with 10minutes and then aim to be building up to 20/30minutes, this is a normal parameter. Whatever it is that ‘clears your mind’ is the best pathway. For some this is the garden. They need the sense of nature to clear the head. For some it’s water. The constant noise of water moving (which when you listen to it is actually quite loud) is necessary to calm the head and the self talk.
For many ‘alpha’ thinkers, this is the precise link for a more meditative state. The silence can be deafening, so you need to find your pathway to that stillness that is not so drastic that it helps you achieve that space that is necessary. Particularly this relates to your sports-person. The exerciser who needs the segway to be as much about harnessing the mental as much as it is about downgrading the physical.
So what is the actual ‘science’ behind meditation. A lot of research has been conducted into meditation and the benefits and characteristics on brain wave activity thereof, but much of this research up until 2007-08 was proved to be biased and inconclusive. Since then, more ‘controlled’ and independent research has been conducted and the studies are starting to promote more ‘clinical’ findings that meditation does have positive effects on brain activity.
What does it do? Recent studies indicate the practice of meditation does in fact contribute to a thickening of the cerebral cortex. In short this means that the brain ‘muscle’ is developing. You are ‘working out’ hard so its responding. Not only the development of this but the consequent ‘atrophy’ (to use a relative term) of sections of the brain known as the amydgala which corresponds to the part of the brain associated with anxiety and stress, is remarkable in studies involving MRI scans of the brain during meditative practices. There is also conclusive evidence that alpha or theta wave EEG activity is modestly increased during the active process of meditation. This has direct benefits to the ‘filtering’ process of new information coming into the brain
The mind automatically judges and categorizes every new bit of information and a lot of what is new gets rejected because it doesn’t fit into the current programming. Using your imagination in theta removes the judgments and constraints of the logical mind, and allows for unbridled creativity. - http://www.omharmonics.com/blog/thetawaves/#sthash.bsAAIHFc.dpuf
So the whole ‘Newton sitting under the apple tree’ theory makes sense. The stilling of the mind allows for creative thought to flow, which can lead to breakthroughs, new conclusions and ideas to formulate and exist. The advanced minds of the physics realm are as much about creative thinking as an artist or composer. The clarity and possibility of differing viewpoints is as important to their discoveries as any painter or contemporary artist. To look at things from a different perspective and then do the maths to prove or disprove it – even when it’s your own theory.
So finding your own space and path to the quiet internal process’ of meditation is a very individual experience. You can activate it via various ways but the important thing is to find that quiet space in your mind. Remembering that meditation is not about filling your mind with imbued and pure thoughts, it is quite the opposite – to empty your conscious of all thought so that the purity and clarity can flow unimbued. Calm the pond to allow the pebble to drop into the centre. Then you get the true effect of the stimulation. Unimbued, pure and true.