When I was first interested in meditation, I had heard a lot about it, but I didn’t have a clear idea of what it actually meant to meditate. Looking for a place to start I found that there were numberless methods of meditation, and this was confusing to me. After some searching and questioning I just started with one tradition and the methods that felt most compelling to me. Then I went from there. This felt like a good start.
What is meditation? Here I’ve chosen some forms that are easy to implement in our daily life and that naturally help us to relax. Attentive and calm breathing, listening, and walking can bring us into our body and into the here and now in a fast and natural way. This activates our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and allows for restful moments and a taste of inner peace.
Getting used to
In Tibetan language the word for meditation also means “getting used to.” We are using our mind in meditation in a different way than usual and so we adjust to a different way of being. Usually we use our mental capacities to manage our daily life. If we see photos of people meditating, it might look a bit strange to see them just sitting there, maybe with closed eyes and relaxed faces. Whether in big groups or alone, on a chair or on the floor, in a bus or in nature, these are pictures we usually don’t see so much.
We are used to going actively about our days or resting passively. Meditation uses another mode of our mind. It’s a kind of active resting. We actively limit our attention within a certain focus and this allows us to relax it from its ordinary use. We are just allowing our awareness to be as it is in that moment. Nevertheless our mind will act as it normally does and that means we will notice wandering thoughts and maybe even nervous and busy activity, even though nothing might be required of us. The more we allow our mind to get adjusted to this different mode of being, the more manageable, pliable, and even calm it will slowly get. This enables us to have a mind we can use and place as we like rather than a pattern-driven, busy, and nervous mind.
Being awake, aware, and relaxed
A relaxed awakeness allows for an awake relaxedness and the other way around. We all know many states of wakefulness and relaxation already: We can be awake but tense and tired; and we can be tired but too awake and nervous to sleep. Also we can feel exhausted but be too nervous to relax and recover; and we can be awake but feel too drowsy to be active. Just to mention some of them.
Meditation and the different experiments presented here allow us to get to know our own mind better. Doing the exercises with interest and curiosity, we can soon know much better what is the best way to balance our mind in a given situation. We get adjusted to using the support of these methods to better influence our state of mind and our wellbeing.
When I season my days with small, calming mini-meditations, I can use my normal daily life as a playground, as a testing and training field. In general it is highly recommended to do formal meditations in safe and undisturbed environments. Though undisturbed environments may not always be accessible, this formal practice allows us to learn the different methods in their pure form. We can see and exercise our mind without a lot of outer distractions.
With some experience we can use our daily walking times, waiting times, and even emotional challenges to investigate, experiment, and train. You might actually find many situations that allow you to enjoy walking, listening, breathing, eating, and watching, all in a conscious and focused way. This can transform your ordinary activities into chances to use your inbuilt biological balancing methods and calm your nervous system on the go.