Two old friends bumped into each other out on the street. “Hey,” said one to the other, “what do you do these days… do you work?” The other one answered, “Oh, I don’t have a job right now. So I spend all day meditating. It’s better than doing nothing!”
This old joke illustrates one of the many misconceptions about meditation: people actually think that it’s all about doing nothing.
While it may be true that a person deep in meditation may sit motionless for up to several hours, and while the goal may be all about emptying the mind, true meditation is far from doing nothing.
Meditation, in fact, requires quite a lot from a person, but it’s all in the mind; it’s all about taking your mind to a heightened state of awareness.
And doing that calls for a bit of work.
Think of the brain as a throbbing, pulsating engine that radiates energy in the form of waves. The characteristics of these thought waves depend on the current state of the brain. When a person is awake and conscious and functioning normally, the brain is said to be in beta. When the brain relaxes somewhat, is calm and not thinking, it’s in alpha state. When it reaches a state of deep relaxation and meditation, the brain is in theta.
The delta state is the region of deep, dreamless slumber.
Meditation is the process of relaxing the mind and taking the brain from its normal, active beta state to a state of absolute calmness – the theta state.
This slows brain activity almost to the point of sleep. Ironically it is also the state when the floodgates that dam up hidden memories seem to pry open, unleashing a torrent of rich, vivid imagery and inspiration.
This is important and even desirable because here is where you obtain inspiration and solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems that may be bothering you.
Here is a simple technique – a breathing meditation – that can help calm the mind and rid it of distractions. You can practice this anywhere, any time; it requires nothing more than breathing and having the will to calm yourself down.
1. Choose a quiet place away from people or things that can distract you.
2. Sit comfortably. You may sit on the floor, in the traditional cross-legged position, or you may sit in a chair. Whatever you choose, make sure your back is straight; this prevents you from becoming sleepy.
3. Close your eyes and start to focus on your breathing. Breathe naturally, through your nostrils, and don’t try to control your breath.
4. Pay particular attention to the sensation you feel as each breath passes through the nostrils. Block everything else out; focus only on how it feels to breathe. At first your mind may be tempted to wander and think of other things – work that needs to be done, payment for the rent, the errand your spouse may have asked you to do – you must catch yourself each time this happens and force your mind back to that single sensation of breathing through your nose.
And that’s all there is to it. At first you may think your mind tends to get busy doing this, but your mind has really been that busy right from the start, and you are just being made more aware of it. Forcing it to focus on just one single thought actually calms it down and helps you get from the beta level to the theta state.
Check out Solfeggio Sounds – they’re a useful tool for instant, effortless meditation.