by Derek Ayre
The best place to begin when faced with a question like Why Meditate? is to take a closer look at what the mind is. The mind is a continuity of thoughts that present themselves in a linear arrangement in both our waking hours and when we are asleep (in the form of dreams). Our thoughts cause a reaction in our nervous systems that is known as stress. Some stress is necessary for our day-to-day functioning and some of it is unnecessary and can even harm us. Research has shown that it is the harmful stress that meditation can address and reduce by helping us to transcend the whims and worries of our minds.
Personally, I practice zazen - a form of Zen meditation whose aim it is to empty the mind of all thoughts - although many Zen practitioners would say that zazen is not meditation at all, but more of a process. It is very easy to describe how to do zazen, but takes commitment to make it work effectively.
The practitioner needs to sit in an upright position (laying down may induce sleep or day-dreaming), and focus on following the breath that enters and leaves the body to the exclusion of all other thoughts. If thoughts enter the mind, the sitter needs to reject them and bring his/her attention back to the breaths with renewed vigour.
As sitting for a long time may cause discomfort and circulatory problems, meditators are instructed to stand and walk around at certain periods, remaining focused on the breaths. This should take place every twenty-five minutes or so, and awareness should then also be focused on the movement of the legs, pressure on the soles of the feet etc. again to the exclusion of all irrelevant thoughts.
Beginners, who find themselves almost incapable of holding their attention on just the breaths, should start their practice by counting each inhalation and exhalation from one to ten, then returning to one again and starting all over again. That is, focusing on one, whilst inhaling, two, exhaling, three, inhaling again, and so on.
But, to go back to the question, why do all this? Meditators the world over have been found suffer a lot less stress and anxiety, can transcend pain of any sort, can rejuvenate themselves easier after exertion, can deal with sleep problems, fatigue and much else that is exacerbated by day to day life. And many who master the techniques, find improvement in concentration and other mental abilities.
Many of my clients have found huge benefits from exercising a little discipline each day and practising meditation.
Thanks for reading,
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