Meditation and mindfulness are the biggest buzzwords in the West's latest quest for inner peace and enlightenment. But how many of us actually make the time to meditate, or even know what we are meant to be doing? My trip to a Buddhist Meditation Centre in Sri Lanka taught me this ancient art in a way that's easy to understand and implement in the busyness of modern day living.
For years I told myself I sucked at meditation. This was my excuse to slip into a stealthy slumber or raid the fridge instead of taking time out to tame my monkey mind. The fact that my overactive mind was the only defense weapon I had against my' well overactive mind, seemed a futile battle to begin with. And besides that, it was inevitable that one of my body parts would defiantly fall asleep during any attempt at prolonged sitting. I just wasn't cut out for this zen master meditation madness that seemed to be sweeping the globe. This is what I'd tell myself over and over again. Until a week long retreat atop a misty mountain in Sri Lanka completely changed the meditation game for me.
In November 2016 I wound my way up the tumbling tea plantations of central Sri Lanka towards Nilambe Buddhist Meditation Centre. I was guided up by Serj, the betelnut chewing tuk tuk driver, who'd stop every 100 metres to hurl chunks of red saliva out the vehicle before apologetically swirling a swig from his absolut Vodka water bottle. My quest for inner peace and enlightenment was off to a smashing start.
Upon arrival, I gave a hearty hello to the gate opener, much to dismay of Serj who gestured wildly to 'ssshh!' before hurling another saliva ball and bucking back into his tuk tuk. I guess the game was now on. I was to be silent for the next five days. And in those days of silence, my soul had never spoken so loud. 'The duty of mindfulness is to drag the 'I' away from the centre to be an observer on the exterior' - Upul Nishantha Gamage. Rather than throwing daggers, knives and assagais at each thought that comes by as you desperately defend the empty mind from intellectual attack, let your thoughts come. And then, let your thoughts go. It's just that simple.
After my time at Nilambe I thought I'd return with yogic super powers that enabled me to sit dead still for hours in full lotus, or at the very least, with the root cause to every emotional melodrama I'd ever experienced ' but I didn't. What I came away with was far more valuable.
I returned with a deeper understanding of how I think. In other words ' I returned with a deeper understanding of who I am. Which is actually the same thing.
As James Allen says in As a Man Thinketh: 'The outer conditions of a person's life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state' Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.'
Through meditation you learn to be a silent observer of our own thought patterns, giving rise to your emotions and, subsequently, the actions and reactions that stem from this. Your humaness is the very essence which will bring peace and fulfillment. The more you deny your thoughts and emotions, such basic of human instincts, the more you cut yourself off from who you really are. The key is to let your thoughts roll by as if on a movie screen without attaching identity to them.
6 TIPS TO MAKE MEDITATION EASY1. Start slowly
20 minutes of meditation a day is better than nothing at all. The best times to fit it in is 10 minutes after waking up and another 10 minutes before falling asleep. See how this goes and gradually increase the duration as you form a new healthy habit.
2. Focus on your breath
Begin your meditation by simply being aware of your breath. Buddha reached enlightenment by observing his in and out breath, eventually disassociating his consciousness from this human instinct as he became an outside observer of his own body. Just focusing your attention on the trail of oxygen in and out your lungs is enough.
3. Meditate in motion
Meditation doesn't mean sitting for hours on end. Try standing, walking at different speeds or bringing mindfulness into seemingly mundane tasks like washing the dishes or cutting vegetables. Bring your full focus into what you are doing and turn your movement and your work into a form of meditation.
4. Be mindful
Be mindful in all that you do. When you are eating, when you are driving, when you are brushing your teeth or closing a door. Bring your awareness to the present and think about what you are doing. Don't rush, the slower you can move through life, the clamer your mind will be.
5. Head into nature
Sit silent in nature for at least 10 minutes a day. Escape the stress and hurriedness of modern living to contemplate trees. Take off your shoes, make friends with the insects, take a deep breath and relax.
6. Nature heals.
Pause, observe your emotions. When you feel an emotion arising, rather than reacting instinctively, pause and immediately observe what you are thinking. What are the habitual thinking patterns that have caused this emotion to arise and is it really necessary to feel this way? Being aware of our thoughts helps us to understand and control our emotions.
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