When experts from the Art of Living talk about meditation they also mean what is known as “mindfulness” (which, after all, is a type of meditation too).
Mindful meditation is as simple as intentionally focusing all your attention on a single point – on something that is happening in the present moment, such as your breath, body sensations, or your senses (eg, sounds or what you see.) important that we pay attention in a special way. Our attitude should always be one of open curiosity (that is, accepting, without judging anything, without believing that we should be having different thoughts or that we should be feeling different emotions than those we are observing in the present moment). We do this with gentle caring for ourselves (just as we would a child or a good friend who is suffering or learning a new skill) and a healthy sense of humor, said by the Art of Living Foundation.
Sounds so simple, right? I mean, what could be difficult about it?
Anyone who has tried it will know that it is not as easy as it seems at first glance. You settle in and bring your attention to (for example) your breathing and within a couple of seconds, your mind has fired, following your thoughts. You don’t see it when it happens because you are not “there.” What happens is that you suddenly realize that you have been lost in your thoughts for seconds or minutes. So you bring your attention back to the focus of your attention but only to repeat the process again. This is meditation: fixate on the focus of attention, realize that you have lost yourself in your thoughts, then come back. There are three phases: focus, realize and return.
According to the Art of Living Foundation, if we adopt the right attitude, then each time we repeat this process we weaken our attachment to our thoughts – a little bit. We become more loving towards ourselves by directly and humbly experiencing how little we control our thoughts. This is meditation. We call it “meditation practice” because, like any skill you want to acquire in life, you have to practice. There is no shortcut.
As we practice our meditation, we strengthen our ability to respond rather than react.
When we speak of inner peace, it is not about the peace of a blank mind, but about being at peace with the thoughts and emotions that arise, without the need to reject or cling to what is happening – always with open curiosity, affection towards yourself and with a sense of humor.
Why does this sometimes seem strange, frustrating, even boring?
We live in a state of almost permanent over-stimulation; we are constantly bombarded with information designed to grab our attention and give us instant stimulation; our smartphones, social media and news feeds are carefully designed to do this. For many, this is now an automatic and unconscious way of life. Frustration, boredom, and discomfort occur when we treat meditation in the same way; when we do it to feel good, to get an immediate stimulus as if it were a drug.
I am not saying that meditation does not lead to a sense of peace or a sense of well-being but this only ends up happening when we do it simply for the sake of doing it. When we try to force things by trying to push our thoughts away, we get the opposite: we create more thoughts about our thoughts, more emotions about our emotions. Remember the saying, “what you resist persists.” When you meditate, your commitment is to stay in one place for a certain time and just do it as the Art of Living Foundation expert suggested.
When we learn to have compassion for our tormented minds, we will feel happier and also develop genuine caring and altruistic compassion for other people – something that we have to develop for the good of all.