Sunday, 8 September 2013

On desires, acceptance and meditation...

            It is coming up to that time of year when I have increased contact with another generation of younger people. One thing that has struck me over the past few years is how many individuals (and not just those younger than myself!)  cannot distinguish between what they want and what they can have. Stop for a moment and think about that and you will realize this is the root of so many conflicts between individuals  and within yourself.

            Often trying to have what you desire hurts others. If you cannot have what you want then another option is to be happy with what you can get. Well, perhaps “accept” is a more practical goal than “happy”. What cannot be cured, must be endured. There are some things in my life I accepted long ago and they do not bother me while the same things are a source of worry to others. My girlfriend was laughing at a friend of hers whose hair was thinning. I glanced upwards at my own long bare pate and raised an eyebrow. “You being bald does not matter” she explained “you are cool with it and don’t let it bother you so it is nothing on you”. There are, of course, other aspects of my life I apparently cannot change and I have not yet been able to accept, so I am making more of an effort to work on that.

            Recently I saw a program that included a section on meditation, in particular mindfulness meditation. It seems that scientific studies have indicated changes in brain mechanism resulting from practice of meditation and it has proved to be have a positive effect in a number of situations and institutions. Many of you, like me, may have assumed that meditation involves letting your mind go blank, which is a very difficult if not impossible for most of use. What in particular struck me in this program was a comment that made it clear that “clear your mind” was a constant and dynamic process during meditation. It is inevitable that thoughts will pop-up in your head. The trick was to not dwell on them and dismiss them until an appropriate time. This reminded me of a friend of mine who used to seem to go out of his way to think about his problems and used to torture himself something rotten as a result. We all know  that is can be a good policy to distract yourself when you have something on your mind, and for major problems such as grief from the lost of a loved one I know that sleeping as much as possible is often the best medicine. One of the things Mindfulness Mediation seems to teach is the ability to discipline your thoughts and dismiss those that are not at that time relevant.

            Possibly the most accessible form of mindfulness mediation is sitting meditation. Just sit, concentrating on a single thing, such as your breathing and practice dismissing any other thoughts and ignoring any external distractions. No need for a special outfit, scented candles, CD of whale noises or anything else. One thing I have noticed recently is that I have found my exercising (mentally) quite relaxing. My mind has just been concentrating on each movement and dismissing anything else that pops into my head at that moment. Tai Chi, of course, is often described as “mediation in movement” and we can see a similar process here. I was quite interested to learn there was also such a thing as mindfulness meditation while walking. Rather than concentrate on each breath you concentrate on each step, and the sensations it brings. You can, of course, advance to concentrating on both your steps and breathing. From a self-defence point of view walking anywhere without paying attention to your surroundings is a bad move so walking meditation has the potential to become even more advanced while you concentrate on a number of things while eliminating unnecessary thoughts.

            Something to research further and experiment with.