If you lead a busy lifestyle, you may already know the benefits of meditation, and have therefore looked into the practice as a way of reducing stress and improving your own cognition. However, meditation is one thing that is easier said than done – many experts say that it takes several years to truly master the art before you begin to see the full range of benefits, such as the ability to “see beyond”. This doesn’t mean that you can’t begin a practice today, however, to begin to see some of the benefits to both your own physical and mental health.
It can be challenging to begin a practice when you don’t know much about how to properly approach meditation. That was the predicament I was in when I developed my own interest just last month. I didn’t know where to begin and how to overcome any pitfalls that I had encountered with previous meditation attempts.
Luckily, I came across this perfect little book called Learn to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Self-Discovery and Fulfillment, and learn-to-meditate you will while reading this little treasure of a book. The book is divided into two sections: The Gateway, which discusses beginning topics such as proper breathing techniques as well as the mentality with which to approach meditation, and Beyond the Gateway, which gets into different traditions such as Buddhism and Taoism, and discusses more advanced techniques such as how to reach altered states.
In each section, there are several exercises which are in place to help guide you in using certain techniques or experiment with different approaches. The book is also beautifully illustrated with images of which can help inspire your meditations or ignite a general sense of creativity with how you approach your practice.
Below is my own favorite exercise. This has been one of the most useful meditation exercises for me, because it gets me in the habit of asking the question daily, “who is it who is watching?”. This allows me to witness my life through an outside perspective, and to adjust course accordingly. I also love this exercise example because it is just as useful to someone who is beginning their meditation journey as it is to someone who has been practicing their whole life.
Learn to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Self-Discovery and Fulfillment, Exercise 4 – Who Am I?
The question “Who am I?” is one that we will keep in mind throughout this book. For the moment, the spirit of inquiry, not the answers, is what matters. We have stumbled upon a puzzle that intrigues and engages us, but which we do not expect to solve just yet. For the time being, we are content to watch, ask, and wait.
Sit comfortably and relax by tensing and releasing your muscles. Take a deep breath and slowly exhale, imagining that any remaining tension is set free with your out-breath. Close your eyes and turn your attention inward.
Watch the thoughts that pass through your awareness, but don’t judge them. Try not to hang on to pleasant thoughts, or to push unpleasant ones away. Just watch.
Now go one step further and ask yourself “Who is it who is watching?”
Repeat the question mentally from time to time throughout the meditation, but always in a light, half-amused way, without demanding an answer.
It’s not just this question that can be asked, however. We can ask many other questions to ourselves throughout our day that will force us to step out of our experience and into another perspective, allowing us to gain clarity on the many issues we face daily. Meditation is a great way to practice being aware of the exact moment you are instead of bouncing around in thought like many of us are so used to.
All in all, meditation is an amazing practice that I recommend anyone who is looking to expand their brainpower, reduce stress, and/or grow spiritually to take up. It takes way less than you think to begin, and having helpful tools around such as Learn to Meditate is a great way to begin and continue. By reading, I have become aware of how to get around personal pitfalls, and have become more understanding of the ultimate goal of meditation, of which is discover the truth of oneself.