This week, I’m doing the gratitude challenge from Habitica. Every day, I’m writing about one thing that I’m grateful for.
Today, I’m writing about meditation. It’s something that has been life-changing.
I do Anapanasati (or concentration meditation) and Vipassana meditation (or mindfulness meditation). As someone who is in recovery, it has been very important to me. It has helped decrease my depressive symptoms, regulate my mood, quietened my mind and helped me focus better (it boosted my concentration tremendously).
It’s a quiet space where I can have peace of mind and serenity. Not thinking and just observing thoughts has been proven as very beneficial for the brain. It shrinks the amygdala (the brain’s fight or flight center, which is responsible for fear and emotion, where reactions to stress start). This was only after 8 weeks of mindfulness practice. Studies show that the pre-frontal cortex gets thicker (it’s responsible for concentration, awareness and decision-making). The connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain becomes weaker and the connection between areas associated with concentration and attention get stronger (according to this article).
Anapanasati meditation is, basically, concentrating on your breath and letting thoughts go as they arise. You don’t judge yourself or your thoughts.
In Vipassana meditation, you focus on the sensations in your body and you observe your thoughts as they arise, letting them go afterwards.
These two types of meditation should be practiced every day, at least two times a day because concentration meditation helps concentration (obviously) and gives us a better mood and mindfulness meditation (also called insight meditation) helps us become more aware of our body, helps us deal with unpleasant feelings and sensations and, can help us in having insights or mystical experiences. We can have this experience of everything being empty and devoid of essence, which can help us see things more clearly. See things as they are and without emotional attachment. It doesn’t mean that when we meditate every day we lose all emotion and become these numb vegetables: we will be more joyful and in touch with our feelings. And see the world as the vibrant place it is.
As Allan Watts said, when we think too much, we get further from reality because thoughts are abstract. Meditation helps us just be in the present moment, without the chatter of the mind. It is critical for people with mental health conditions because they affect how we think, feel and act. Sitting with a negative feeling is a good way of dealing with it, without repressing it. Understanding that thoughts are not you, that they impermanent and dynamic, helps us see them for what they are; for the illusions that they are. That is so powerful as it takes power from them and back to us. We are much more than our thoughts and they can be misleading. I’m not saying that thinking and analysing things is not important. It is very important but, for a matter of balance, it is also important to be in stillness. Too much thought can be the death of us. Overthinking is very detrimental to ourselve. Everything should be balanced in this life. We should speak but also be quiet, to learn from others. We should listen to music or someone speaking but also be in silence, as it is very beneficial for our health. So, you see, it’s all a matter of equilibrium, which is something I’m still struggling with.
I’ve also done mindful eating, which is a very interesting experience. The food tastes better, you chew more (which is good for our health). As someone who always eats in a hurry, it transformed the way I eat.
It’s also possible to walk and do other activities mindfully. I shall try them all, as I’m very curious about how mindfulness can change our outlook on experiences.
Meditation also helps with addiction. Either it’s drugs or tobacco, there are ways to let go of our attachment to these harmful habits. I want to stop smoking, so I will look into this subject as soon as possible and I will share my conclusions with you.
I notice that I’m more kind and more connected. I don’t get angry easily and I feel no need to harm others, as they are a part of this world where everything is connected. It doesn’t make sense to harm a part of you. I understand that everyone has a story and ways that they are hurting. That realization tells me that there’s a reason why everyone reacts the way they do. It doesn’t make sense to get involved in useless fights. It’s a matter of picking your battles. Some battles are just not fruitful and, in fact, are detrimental to us. They are a waste of energy, which is a finite resource. That energy could be spent on more important tasks or activities. It’s like that Indian wolf metaphor, where a wise man says that inside of us there are two wolves: a good one and a bad one. They are constantly fighting. Someone asks the wise man “Which wolf wins the fight?” and he replies “The one you feed”. It’s important to feed our good side and starve the bad side. This is the way to become a better person and to evolve. I know I have been the toxic person many times throughout my life and I want to let go of that side. Being mindful in every day life and observing my actions is the way to go. Always be curious about why you do things and what you can do to change. We have been scarred by trauma and that’s okay but it doesn’t mean that it’s the way it’s always going to be.
In the past, people thought personality was fixed. Now we know that there is plasticity in the brain. Personality is not fixed. We can decide how we want to be and act. So it’s up to us to decide our path, what we want to let go or create for ourselves.
I hope this made sense to you and I hope I can inspire someone to meditate today or in the near future.
I love you all and wish you are all well and healthy.
Image by Cbill, courtesy of Pixabay.