Could people integrate meditation into their lives and what effects would it have on them?
Can everyone learn to properly meditate?
In this post I will be trying to learn to meditate to see if the everyday person can learn.
Many people think mediation is meant for specific types of people like people with mental illness or monks but that isn’t exactly true. According to the meditation group called Mindworks, “you don’t have to have exceptional spiritual abilities to practice meditation.” They later go on to compare meditation to riding a bike showing that it is a process to learn (1). As for meditation only being known to be used by people with mental illness, Micheal McGee from the US National Library of Medicine explains that, “mindfulness meditation, is a psychological state of active passivity and creative quiescence… the act of intentionally attending with a nonjudgmental attitude triggers a shift in perspective.”(2) This shift in perspective shows people the “bright side” of their situations and different ways to approach stressful situations. Meaning that meditation can help people who are spiritual, have mental illness, or want a clearer mind.
People usually hit some roadblocks while learning to meditate but it’s important to push through to reap the rewards. These usually include…
- Unwanted thoughts
- Body aches
(3) Because of these, people give up on trying to learn to meditate. Meditation is a process though. Just like learning any other skill, you need to find solutions to the roadblocks rather than be stopped by them.
The Solutions to These Problems
Unwanted thoughts- As explained by Mindful Living, “You don’t necessarily have to “stop” the thoughts during your practice.” You can just filter the thoughts into your activity. By not giving the new thoughts much attention, you are consequently focusing more on your meditation.(3)
If your distractions are sound related, try earplugs or meditating to music/sounds.
If they are vison/light related, try an eye mask.
Body aches- Not all meditation requires sitting or staying static. If staying static is the only way that works for you then you can talk breaks to stretch in-between intervals of meditation.
Boredom- If boredom is the problem you probably don’t believe in what you are trying to accomplish. When you put your energy into clearing your head and focusing on your breath, boredom shouldn’t enter your head. (4)
I will be doing an experiment. Since I do not know how to meditate (properly), I am going to try and learn over the course of four days. Then I will give myself a week of using the methods I learned for my next post asking if meditation is sustainable.
I will be using a guide/book to accomplish my learning. This particular book has been given out to my Mother’s patients who struggle with anxiety, depression or anything that would require them to take on meditation. The book is called “Meditation week by week” by David Fontana.
I will be completing the first 3 exercises to see if the everyday person can learn to meditate.
The exercise is called “Meditation 1: Become Conscious of the Environment” (5)
Here is a summary of the instructions:
-allow your eyes to travel around where you are
-move on to what you hear
-finally try to take in sound, sight, and all sensations together and try not to let thoughts intrude.(5)
I think that the activity gave me a moment to stop everything and just take in my surroundings. It said specifically to look at everything as if it was the first time, I was seeing it. I feel a little bit tired/disoriented now from focusing on the little things instead of the big picture things in my life. Out of 10 (10 being I’ve learned to meditate and 0 being I don’t even know what the word means) I think right now I’m at a 5. I still felt a little anxious while doing the exercise but on a positive note I didn’t have any unwanted thoughts. That was a problem I encountered a lot trying to meditate around 3 years ago.
The next exercise is called “Meditation 2: Become Conscious of your body”(5)
Here is a summary of the instructions:
-Bend to pick up an imaginary object from the floor. How did you pick it up?
-Think about your movements while walking or running
-Watch how others walk/move. Are they stiff or relaxed?(5)
When I picked up the object I bent from the knee and I didn’t arch my back. I was pretty stiff. When I walk and run, I do in a mechanical manner. For the last part I watched Cynthia walk. Her posture was good, and she walked pretty normally (not stiff like me). This activity didn’t make me feel any calmer or alert, but it did get me consciously thinking about the way I move. Being stiff maybe shows how stressed I feel. I also felt a bit awkward completing the activity since I was picking up an imaginary object. That may have impacted how I picked up the object. Out of 10 I think this activity made me feel like I am at a 2.
The last exercise is called “Meditation 3: Become Conscious of Stillness(5)
Here is a summary of the instructions:
-Start by finding a comfortable place to sit and stay still with your back upright and your hands held loosely in your lap.
-Sway gently from side to side three times then come upright and remain still.
-If you feel any inclination to move, focus on it.
-When you have decided why you want to move, gently try to let the feeling go and keep still
-Now allow your awareness to travel round the body starting with your feet and moving to your head.
-Remain still for a minute or two after finishing the meditation (5)
I think moving at the beginning made me less inclined to move during the activity. At first, I felt really uncomfortable. I honestly felt like I couldn’t breathe. Then my breathing got irregular because I tried to prove to myself that I could breathe by using a breath pattern that I don’t normally use. As I stayed still for longer, my eyes went out of focus and I felt sort of zoned out. Then, I moved on to the next step. Starting with my feet I noticed the direction they were pointing and the way they were bent. I did the same thing for my legs and arms. I noticed that my shoulders were slouched, and my neck was hurting. Since I was still though I couldn’t change positions. When I reached my head, my already existing headache sort of intensified because I was focusing on it. This meditation made me feel dazed at the beginning but then it brought attention to my body and the aches and pains I was experiencing. It definitely taught me to not be fidgety. Out of 10 this activity made me feel like I am at a 7 in learning to meditate because I did end up clearing my head of thoughts and being able to focus on little things (how my body was feeling)
For my next post I will be testing if the meditation I have learned is sustainable.
Thank you for reading!
Fontana, David. Meditation Week by Week: 52 Meditations to Help You Grow in Peace and Awareness. Duncan Baird Pub, 2007. (5)
Really enjoyed reading your post. I agree with the comment above that there are many myths on how meditation actual works/ helps and sometimes may be more psychological . My aunt actually performs something called “Jikiden Reiki Healing.” She uses her own energy and passes it onto someone that may be ill or hurt. I’ve tried it myself skeptical but it did work – she used her energy on a headache that i had. This may also be something you could look into as well.
Hope to hear from you soon!
Great post! This is my first time reading your new cycle, I’m super excited to see that you’ve recently switched from inquiry to try “action”. I agree with you that there are a lot of myths involved in meditation, and I recognize the one you mentioned on how it’s sometimes connected mental illnesses. It’s great how you are bringing this into light and debunking this.
Even so, I liked how you explained the difficulties that you faced while trying to meditate. In truth, there are many roadblocks, and it’s great how you are seeing whether it is sustainable in your life style. I recently read an article about mediating through exercise (I’ve attached it below). What I found interesting is that research has suggested that those who purposely focus on the feeling of moving and their environment enjoy exercise more. Maybe this is something in addition that you could try!
The article is attached here: https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate-through-exercise/
I really enjoyed reading your post,
Yeah that actually sounds really cool! I mainly run right now to get my exercise in so I could probably use meditative runs as a solution to problems regarding sustainability.
Thank you for the feedback!