Before we delve deeper into what mindfulness is, it would help to have a very clear idea about what meditation is.
What really is meditation?
In routine usage, we use term ‘meditate’ to mean deep thinking. Yet ‘meditation’ actually implies something that is quite unlike deep thinking.
Different people have different notions about meditation. We tend to associate meditation with spirituality. Because in the past meditation was mainly used by people to advance their spiritual growth. Today, people still use meditation for the same purpose.
But meditation is now used to achieve several other goals, including improving physical health, emotional health and well-being. Just to mention a few of the innumerable benefits that meditation confers.
One of the best ways to understand meditation is to view it as attention training. One visits the gym and lifts weights to strengthen muscles. Similarly, during meditation, one picks the object of meditation, also called the anchor of meditation and repeatedly brings attention back to this anchor.
We value attention. It is a skill that is highly sought after. If you notice we are asked to ‘pay’ it.
What prevents us from paying attention? Distractions. If we get distracted, we can’t pay attention. In meditation we train our minds to become better at attending to things. Alternatively, we can say that with meditation we train our minds to focus better or pay better attention.
And how do we train our mind? Just like training our muscles. To train the muscles, we repeatedly lift weights and we gradually keep increasing the amount of weights we lift. In the same manner, with meditation we sit and focus on an object and repeatedly bring our mind back to the object when we lose focus. It is a very simple practice.
But we tend to confuse simple with easy. Not all simple things are easy. Meditation practice in itself is simple. But it is not easy. It takes hard work to meditate.
We are used to taking our mind for granted. Training the mind is a concept that we don’t easily identify with. We tend to think we are born with a mind and we live with it. But it is possible to train our mind just like it is possible to train our body or train pets.
Lastly meditation is not just the attention training. It is much more than that. You may think that how can just the attention training help. Or how can it bring about all the benefits that I have been referring to. Those are valid questions.
It is a journey that starts with attention training. We will be exploring meditation more in the next few posts.