It has been several months since I started doing meditating every morning. In the recent weeks, I have discussed my practice with other people who have found it interesting, and hence I thought I could mention it here. There is a lot of confusion about meditation, especially for sceptics, because it might seem to relate to mysticism or strong (Buddhist) religious beliefs. But fear not: meditation is useful to understand our consciousness better. Understand oneself better.
The first benefit that one gets from meditating, which is probably what many people find when they start, is the reduction of stress. This comes from just relaxing for ten minutes before starting the day. At the very beginning, I used to sit in my couch with my eyes closed thinking: should I stop? I have so much work to do. But after few sessions one realises that these ten minutes are nothing compared to how distracted we are during the day.
The second is the training on attention. Breath is a usual one. In a time where our attention is constantly challenged by social media and emails, this training is incredibly useful—and probably more valuable, as Cal Newport explains in Deep Work. How many times a day are you working on something important just to find yourself completely lost in thought? Mindfulness meditation is the solution.
The third and probably most important benefit that I have found is the realisation that I am different than my thoughts. This might be obvious on an intellectual level, but not on a behavioural one. Think about the last time you were angry. Maybe you were angry at someone close to you. Can you remember how long you stayed angry? How much of this anger came from this person’s action, and how much came from your thoughts about this action? You are not your thoughts; you can change them. Understanding this difference is understanding the difference between pain and suffering. While pain might be unavoidable, the suffering associated to it can typically be significantly reduced.
On a more practical note, I usually meditate first thing in the morning, between 4 and 5, just after preparing my coffee. The coffee is key here because if one is tired and sleepy it is extremely easy to just fall asleep while meditating. A 10-minute meditation a day is enough to achieve some of its benefits. From time to time, typically one a week, I do longer sessions: 30 minutes to one hour. I think one hour meditation a day would be fantastic but I have not improved my focus as much as to have time to do that.
People train their bodies, and we identify this practice as healthy—not only that, but this is encouraged in many levels. Mental training and mental health should not be any different—in fact, even if we do not understand many things about consciousness, the brain is just another organ. Training the mind, training the focus, being able to direct your attention to what matters and what makes you happy, should be a must for today’s lives full of distractions.