When neuroanatomist and author Jill Bolte was recovering from a major stroke, she made some amazing discoveries, one of which was that she felt peaceful when she was disconnected from the left hemisphere of her brain (the thinking mind). To regain full control of her faculties she had to learn how to bring the left hemisphere of her brain back to life, without losing the peace she experienced when this hemisphere of her brain was disconnected. She was able to do this by going within on a regular basis.
The difference between meditation, mindfulness and relaxation techniques is that mindfulness and meditation changes the structure of your brain, and over time the way you respond to stress, whereas relaxation tools decrease stress in the moment.
Many of us live in cities and suburbs that are so busy, where everything is constantly in motion. We need pockets of stillness where we can mentally rest and recuperate and connect with our soul. When you walk, unless you are doing a specific walking or chanting meditation in a quiet place, there are often things going on around you. Cars pass, people walk by and smile or say hello and it’s difficult not to be distracted. Meditation helps you to transcend thought and ego, so you can access your spirit, which knows no fear or judgement.
Some people feel as if they need to do more, have more and even be more. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to be still, empty your mind and do nothing. Of course, your mind doesn’t always obey your command to be still and there are strategies you can use. You can simply watch your thoughts and let them float away. You can listen to music which stills the mind. You can focus on a candle, say a mantra, chant or simply listen.
HOW TO MEDITATE
You don’t need any special skills to meditate. Just close your eyes and listen to the sounds that are all around you. Even if you are in a quiet place, and for most people that is preferable, you will hear the wind rustling through the trees, birds chirping, a dog barking, a car passing. It may seem that listening to these sounds has little to do with meditating but listening can be a focusing tool which distracts the mind from thinking. The only thing that takes you away from inner peace is your thoughts.
Meditation is all about focusing your attention as a way to distract the thinking mind. The more you focus on a single object, a sound, mantra or a candle flame, or even on observing your thoughts the easier it becomes to slip into the gap. The gap is the place where you lose track of time and what is going on around you. However, even if you don’t reach this state it doesn’t mean that your meditation was not successful.
Another tool that aids focus is listening to a recording. By listening to music or sounds, which are generally at a particular frequency that encourages relaxation, it’s easier to switch off the mind. Don’t be concerned though if your mind wanders, it’s natural, whenever you become aware simply bring your attention back to what you are focusing on.
We often spend our lives striving to achieve goals thinking the achievement of these goals will make us feel happy. Achieving some goals definitely enhances our lives, but I have never gotten a feeling of ecstasy, of overwhelming joy, from any goal or achievement like I’ve experienced while meditating. The first time I experienced a state of ecstasy I thought to myself, “This is what everyone is searching for”.
Whenever you feel something is missing from your life, rather than looking for something or someone to fill the void, go within.