Learn about the basics of meditation. Why it can be beneficial and how to get started. Can doing nothing and thinking about nothing really make a difference, and if so, how? Who controls your thoughts, and is it possible to take control of your brain? What happens when you meditate? And why is it that we resist meditating?
- This happiness video is about meditation, a subject that's been gathering popularity recently but which is still quite secretive and, sorry for the pun, hard to get your head around. I'll try and explain what I know about it, and I hope it's helpful. I'll talk first about how you do it and then about why you might want to do it. First, the how. You're going to sit silently and do nothing for 15 minutes. So the first thing you need is a room where you definitely won't get disturbed and which is as quiet as possible.
Obviously, you need to turn your phone off. And then you set an alarm for 15 minutes. Later, you might build it up to 30, although I think if you do want to do more, it might be better to do 15 minutes first thing in the morning and another 15 in the evening. You then sit upright with your eyes shut on a reasonably hard chair. If you slump into a sofa, you'll probably fall asleep. You remain silent. And for the first few minutes, you'll have all sorts of thoughts fizzing around in your brain, including this is really boring, I'll never manage to do this for 15 whole minutes.
But just ignore those. Just let them go on until slowly they subside. If you're disturbed by sounds, for example, a motorbike going past your window, don't think, damn, he's just ruined the whole thing, I'll have to start again now, but instead just observe and think, a motorbike going past. As the voices subside, you'll hear your alarm go off. Wow, suddenly the time has gone. But you weren't asleep. The 15 minutes has whizzed by without you noticing, and your brain has been in neutral.
That's what it should feel like if you're doing it right. Some people find it hard to think about nothing, to just ignore all the thoughts, and they use a mantra, a repeated word or phrase to push out all other thoughts. Some schools of meditation teach you a particular mantra or set one up just for you. Personally, I would suggest just trying it with no mantra or using a word that you like, for example, calm. And just slowly say it in your head over and over again until you go under, and then suddenly the 15 minutes will be up.
So, why would you do this? Why go to all these lengths to let 15 minutes slip by without you noticing? Surely that's just a waste of 15 minutes? Well, if you ask about the benefits, most people who do it will be a bit cagey and say it's different for each person, or it'll do whatever you want it to do, or some vague waffle like you'll be more grounded, which, as an engineer, makes no sense to me. But what I would say is that I've been trying it, and I have noticed some benefits, for me anyway, although you might be different.
But this is what I have found. I find that just after I've done it, I have a surge of creativity, my brain is definitely working faster and better, a bit like your computer just after you've rebooted it. And maybe that's almost exactly what meditation is doing. I think it gives me more physical energy as well as mental energy, too. I also find that I have better control over my thoughts. Instead of a kangaroo loose in my head saying things like "Oh no, a queue, I hate queuing, I always get impatient "and there's nothing I can do, look! "I'm getting impatient already." I now find that I'm able to control the kangaroo, and I'm better at thinking, "It's a queue, "but I'm not going to get impatient, "because I am in control." It's as if I've added another layer above my normal brain, above the kangaroo.
When you think about self-control, you can control yourself to an extent, but who is controlling the controller? And it's me now. Does that sound odd? (chuckling) Probably. But I hope you can sort of see what I mean. So, it's made me more patient, more self-disciplined, and better at focusing, all by just sitting there. By the way, just a final thought. I quite often don't meditate, using pathetic excuses like, I don't have enough time. And someone told me that the reason we decide not to meditate is that our conscious brain that makes our decisions, the kangaroo, if you like, it knows that meditation will tame it and control it.
So it tries every trick to stop you doing it. So, a bit like pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, you have to somehow make the initial effort to do it in order to develop the self-discipline to be able to keep doing it. Good luck with that! So, there you are, that's my take on meditation. And I would urge you to try it. It costs nothing. It may help in all sorts of ways. And you've got nothing to lose except for 15 minutes. Find a quiet place today and give it a go.
- Misbeliefs about happiness
- Focusing on good
- Building gratitude
- Eliminating sources of unhappiness
- Reducing stress