It is in meditative awareness that we go beyond perception and experience inner state of well-being. Here is how to make meditation a way of life.
Each one of us wants to achieve our cherished goals or those which we think are within our reach. We are constantly running after them and other things which we think will make us happier. We end up stressful and discontent with our present state of existence and want to get rid of anything that limits us. Inspite of our ceaseless efforts, the peace,happiness and contentment constantly eludes most of us.
Well-being is accessible to each one of us and our thoughts and emotions are messengers of our inner state of well-being and the key to understand them is by gaining awareness.
Meditation readies us to deal with your thoughts. It helps you gain awareness, teaches you to observe, identify and respond to these underlying emotions and thoughts in a constructive way, rather than recoil or react impulsively.
Making meditation a way of life allows you to see each thought as a messenger with information on how to respond in a way that helps you feel in harmony with yourself and world around you. Your negative notions start to fade, instead of chasing you and wearing you down.
Essence of Meditation
Meditation is a simple practice that requires commitment to stay fully aware of the present moment. Welcoming each moment keeps you connected with yourself and others. In fact, the essence of mindfulness of meditation is paying attention. In every day life we rarely pay full attention to anything, whereas if we set aside a time for meditation, you commit yourself in paying full attention.
By paying attention to the present moment, you can understand the mechanics of the mind. The present moment is sometimes unacceptable and unpleasant. Because of this many of us experience a kind of resistance during the meditation process. This resistance is born out of our inability to accept the moment as it is. A state of well-being cannot be achieved by suppressing all thoughts and emotions. It can be achieved by becoming mindful of everything that arises in your awareness and by observing and accepting thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as they arise without judgment or expectation. This process helps you to step out of your resistance patterns.
Staying connected to your experiences helps you to acknowledge your unchanging inner self which can be tapped into anywhere and anytime.
Here are some insights that you can include in your meditation practices. Each of these insights can be practiced individually or you can apply them all together, sequentially into your meditation practice.
Set firm intentions
Meditating with right intentions develops focus, determination, patience, and perseverance. Intentions are agreements you make with yourself and then express through your actions in your daily activities. if you don’t set firm intentions, you will eventually find yourself wandering and might lose sight of the reason you are meditating.
Intentions set can be small or large. Aim is to discover your genuine intentions and affirm those with certainty in your meditation practice. Express each intention in small phrases in present tense as if it is true. This enables your subconscious mind to register them as actualities. Resolutely follow and affirm your intentions for they enable you to overcome all trials and suffering.
Tap into the feeling of being
Everyday distractions keeps you away from experiencing the joy of simply being. Practice meditation not to become whole, but to connect to your existing wholeness. Realise that wholeness is your birth right and you are more than a limited individual.
Just being is a familiar feeling that you have always known, although you may have ignored it until now. Notice how, when you are simply being, you are perfect just as you are. Affirm your intention to experience the feeling of being. With a regular practice, you can learn to connect to your existing wholeness amidst your daily life. During the practice, simply experience the presence and aliveness of being. Staying focused on the sensation of being slows your thinking and eventually turns off negative thoughts.
Connect to something bigger
Meditation helps us to get in touch with universal life force that connects us all. During the practice learn to align with this force. This connection with bigger force results in a state of well-being. With an expansive mind, you are not narrowly focused on how things should be and on other small desires, but will be able to see those as part of bigger picture.
Connecting to and experiencing the universal life force enhances concentration and your present opens up to infinite possibilities. This enables you to interact and respond rather than contract and react. The expansiveness of mind gives a meaning and purpose to your life.
Practice mindful breathing
Taking hold of your breath builds concentration. Meditating on your breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool to prevent dispersion and enables you to release obsessive thinking. Observing and following breath exhalations and inhalations enhances your ability to sense and respond to the information your body is sending.
Awareness of your breathing patterns allows you to make changes where required to maintain equilibrium. You can continue to do so while walking, sitting or when you are outdoors. You can also practice to count your number of inhalations and exhalations to develop focused attention and concentration. When you recognise you are distracted, gently bring back your attention back to your breath. Breath-counting helps you to maintain a single- pointed focus.
Meditating on your feelings and thoughts makes you stay calm, grounded, and healthy. There can be many disharmonious, negative, and disturbing thoughts that arise during the process. Meditate focusing on them. When such strong feelings arise, refusing to accept and labelling them as enemies will only make them come back more strongly as if they are here to convey important information.
You need to welcome and experience emotions both negative and positive. Know that they are not your enemies but are just seeking your attention. Learn to observe and respond instead of reacting. By focusing on every thought and its opposite, anxiety, fear, and self- judgements no longer control your life. You can no longer remain a hostage to your negative emotions.
Welcome feelings of joy
Joy is an essential emotion which is already within us, waiting to be experienced no matter what the outside circumstances may be. But many of us believe that it only comes by material possessions or achieving a particular outcome. We keep searching for it outside in objects, relationships, and other experiences. When you deny the feelings of joy which is a natural phenomenon, you lose life’s meaning and its purpose.
During meditation, welcoming the feelings of joy also brings with them its opposite. Experiencing both joy and its opposite makes you realise how stressful the opposite is and how it affects your body and mind. When it feels right, release the stressful thought and let joy radiate through you. This can unearth unchanging feelings of joy irrespective of the circumstances thereby reducing the perceptions of pain, anxiety, and depression.
Contemplate on interdependence
Meditating on the interdependent nature the universe makes you realise that everything is a part of an interconnected wholeness. We normally see reality in compartments and make boundaries around ourselves. Because of this we are unable to see the interdependent nature of the world we live in. We are connected and not separate in our suffering and in our desire to be happy.
When you live the sufferings and joy of others, you start to realise the impermanence of the universe and can strengthen the positive emotions of gratitude and compassion. Experience yourself as a unique expression of life, interconnected with the Universe.
Finally, Regular practice of meditation helps you to attain an ideal state of mind. A well disciplined and controlled mind is necessary for various aspects of well-being. Nourish your intention of making meditation a daily practice.
Nourish your intention to make the practice of meditation your own. Be patient with yourself and perseverant and you will be able to notice small changes right away.
Meditation helps us to understand the mechanism of the mind, to love, to live in the present, and to use the full potential of our lives.
Memory is an essential pre-requisite of all learning. Building strong memory improves thought system and intellect.
Memory is an important aspect of your ‘self’ and is formed by your mental habits.
“The human brain can remember events, skills, habits, and experiences. The sum of what is remembered is called a memory”-Frank Knoll
Memory loss is often attributed to aged and elderly. As you get older, you lose your imaginative skills. However, in recent years, there is a sharp increase in the number of people reporting memory related issues irrespective of their age. Majority of these cases are associated with lifestyle dysfunctions, over dependency on technology, and information overload. Tension and stress further weakens our memory system.
It is interesting to know that the left side of our brain deals with logic, language, numbers, and sequence, while the right is connected with visualisation of images, colour, and awareness. However, both can undertake all kinds of activities. You shouldn’t say that you do not have the capacity to learn or that you are weak in a certain subject. In fact, it may be because you have not developed an interest in that particular subject. By improving your memory you can use both sides of the brain.
Impressions of all mental and physical actions, observation and Visualisation in our subconscious mind creates our memory.
Our memory system has the ability to retain impressions of past thoughts in the form of attitudes, moods, or resolves. Memories are not duplicate impressions of earlier events, but reconstructions of earlier events.
Memory is an active process and depends on what your brain chooses to remember and for what duration. There are three stages by which clear memory is formed.
Registration: Registering the information by the perception of sense organs forms the short-term memory system. This is very limited and should be used for registering the information clearly. Otherwise, the waste and negative information might replace it.
Retention: This is the process of storing the particular information for longer duration and this involves visual images and association with words or other experiences such as smell or sounds.
Recollection: The information stored up is brought up into conscious mind when required. This further depends on the state of the mind which helps to recall the full information stored.
Depending on the above stages, each information is processed and stored by our brain based on its intended use. Memory can be further classified.
* We tend to forget certain information as soon as it has served its purpose. This is termed as Working memory which usually lasts for few minutes to few hours and cannot be retained for longer hours.
* There are certain memories that occur at particular time and place. We register and label them with time stamps and in certain context. This is Episodic memory which allows your brain to travel back to that place and time when you try to recount that event.
* Procedural memory involves deliberate acts of learning and we can eventually recall without deliberation. For instance learning how to play a musical instrument or learning to drive.
* When we learn Information based on facts and related to general knowledge, it is stored in the brain. This is Semantic memory. This can be retained for longer time and depends on the practice and differs from person to person.
Why do we forget?
Lack of Attention
Attention directs mental activity to register an object or situation. Not being able to pay proper attention to anything forms a weak impression on our memory. In the absence of clear attention, no clear impression and therefore no clear memory to recall.
Lack of Mental exercise
We get mentally out of shape when we stop challenging our minds. This happens when we opt for habitual solutions instead of purposeful thought or when we confine ourselves to limited range of interests. Your ability to make decisions, to solve problems, to concentrate and to think creatively depends on how well you exercise your mind.
Lack of Physical exercise
Our bodies are very much a part of our learning as learning is not an isolated brain function. Every nerve cell is a network contributing to our memory and our learning capability. Complex movement stimulates complex thinking. Lack of these movements leads to low memory.
Lack of Interest
Interest is important for concentration and thereby for improved memory. Things, which we are deeply interested in, are remembered without conscious effort. Lack of interest leads to interference of other thoughts and activities which distract us from giving undivided attention to a certain subject or situation.
Lack of Sleep
When we are sleeping, brain consolidates, revises information, builds and strengthens pathways for particular memories. If you routinely deprive your body of sufficient sleep, your longtime memory will eventually deteriorate. Many harmones that are important for healthy brain functioning are secreted during the night time. Any interruption to this will make it difficult for us to recall even those memories that are retained.
Lack of Emotional Clarity
When we are emotionally upset or worried, we cannot concentrate and register the information properly. Emotional distress shrinks working memory and so diminishes the ability ṭo think and imagine clearly. Our memory and emotional states are closely linked. All our confusions are emotional ones and they befog the mind and rob it of it’s clarity.
“A clear mind remembers, a confused mind forgets.”
Lack of Relaxation
Moḍern lifestyles compel multitasking and can lead to too much work, loads of information to process, and less time to rest or relax which reduces our concentration power and creates stress. General and unwanted information leads to more confusion and loss of memory. Very less energy is spared for sharpening the mind and becomes dull and less receptive.
Lack of Relevance or Understanding
We remember what is relevant and important to us. The more relevant, the better we understand, the better we learn and the better our memory system retains and recalls when necessary. Lack of association, relevance and understanding results in non-comprehension and loss of memory power.
Few techniques to improve your memory.
Create strong impressions: Various impressions of past,present and future converge upon the mind. For stronger impressions, you need to involve all your five senses. When the impression is stronger, the memory recall will be faster and easier. Stronger impressions are formed when more than one sense is involved. Create impressions of positive and necessary information which further strengthens same impressions in your active memory.
Create interest: Improve your concentration by strengthening your interest. This compels you to give undivided attention and to concentrate by excluding other thoughts that might interfere. When you have clear-cut goals and when you know what you do helps you achieve your goals, you will automatically develop an interest.
Concentration: Develop the habit of reining your mind every time it wanders to other things. Concentration automatically leads to stronger impression. Try to build habits such as mindfulness and other habits that are conducive to concentration. A quiet mind is the best guarantee of concentration.
Unclutter your mind: Overwhelming your brain with unwanted and too much information will make it difficult to encode the information in the form of memories. Unclutter your mind by scheduling, organising, setting goals, planning for next day and preparing a ‘to do’ list. This way you can free your mind from unnecessary burden.
Association: Association helps improving your memory. The mind has a tendency ṭo associate the new to the old that were similar.
“Here’s a basic memory rule: You Can Remember Any New Piece of Information if It Is Associated to Something You Already Know or Remember” – Harry Lorayne.
Create memory technique of comprehension: Comprehend the subject of interest under six headings that is why, where, what,when, who and how. Try to understand by asking these questions. It is a permanent way of remembering.
Build positive emotional memory: Emotional memory is the memory attached to past events, people and places. Positive thoughts with positive emotions create healthy mind and receptive mind for better memory. By creating positive emotional memory, you can recall successful solutions to the similar problems of the past.
Remain stress free : Stress reduces brain functions such as memory, intellect, and even brings premature old age. It affects our concentration and learning ability all of which are essential for effective performance at work. Remain stress free for better recollection. This can be achieved most naturally when both the body and the mind are relaxed. Deep breathing and other meditation techniques help you remain stress free thereby enhancing memory power.
Mental and physical exercise: Some of the simple games we played as children can help tone up the brain and reinforce the functions of sequential thinking, logic and remembering the names and dates. Crossword puzzles or a round of scrabble offer as an excellent method of mental workout. Swimming or other physical activities stimulate brain synchronisation. Rhythmic movements such as dancing, skating, or walking also improves the memory.
Adopting simple mindfulness practices will boost your chances of reducing stress and anxiety.
“Elevate yourself through the power of your mind, and not degrade yourself, for the mind can be both friend and enemy of self.”
We all are victims of information overload with the constant flow of information and access of new technology everyday in our lives. We get used to filling our minds and homes with unnecessary stuff. Everything around us seems important and this mental overload makes our lives complicated. Too many choices confuse our decision making capabilities and this leads to indecision, dissatisfaction, and to an imbalanced mind.
An imbalanced mind unleashes its uncontrolled thoughts all around and creates confusion and chaos. These thoughts are the opinions, beliefs, and interpretations that pass through your mind and hold your conscious attention. These untamed thoughts interfere with your focus, happiness and peace of mind. They further manifest as moods, emotions, and impulses and you get trapped into anxious, negative and unproductive thinking.
This mental overwhelm often creates lot of sṭress, anxiety and depression. These thought patterns if unnoticed operate like hypnotic suggestions and influence your behaviour. Our minds which are overfed with new information makes our thoughts buzz around like swarm of bees and we lose our inner stability.
The only way to clean your mind from these patterns is to discover inner peace by practicing mindfulness regularly. When we begin to meditate, we think we must suppress all the negative thoughts and feelings. Many of us feel the need to quiet our minds because we are afraid of negative, unpleasant impulses. The more we try to calm ourselves, the more restless we become. Freedom from such comes when we realise following:
1. Thoughts have no intrinsic value and they keep changing.
2. We cannot control our thoughts, either we can distract or direct our attention elsewhere.
3.Since we cannot control or stop them, we are not responsible for our thoughts, no matter positive or negative.
Meditation consists of two simultaneous processes.
Thoughts are like bubbles and they eventually rise to surface. Noticing everything that arises in our awareness by simply paying attention to whatever arising without any judgment and expectation. Let your thoughts be as they are, positive or negative, make peace with your mind.
Letting go rather than clinging to what arises in your awareness. Being attached and clinging too tightly to your thoughts will only lead to suffering. By letting go, we become seekers of positive thoughts and inner silence.
This is easier said than done. In everyday life, we rarely pay attention to our thoughts. A little practice at any point in your day, can go far when it comes to taming your thoughts. The beauty of meditation is that you can do it any time, with your eyes wide open, using whatever task is at hand as your meditative object. All are forms of meditation.
Make meditation as an essential part of your daily routine like physical exercise. Continuous practice lets you reclaim your focus on your priorities and thus helps you declutter your mind.
Your state of mind is important for the outcome of your life. Presently there is much research showing the connection between our mind, our emotions, and our body. People come under lot of stress in their daily lives as they face tough competition to excel at every stage and in every sphere of life. Many develop anxiety disorders, disturbed sleep patterns and stress. To manage effectively and to have peace of mind, it is important one must practice mindfulness every day.
Mindfulness helps you to return to and stay in the present moment by slowing down the thoughts. It helps in balancing the mind and makes you realise that there is no control over past and future. Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future. Break the old patterns of present-moment denial and present-moment resistance. Watch your mind without any judgement or analysis.
Continuous practice makes you observe that future is usually imagined as either better or worse than the present. If it is for better it gives you hope and if it is worse, it creates anxiety. The habitual tendency of resisting the present moment creates anger and frustration.
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejeciting.”
Researchers in various studies have found that practicing mindfulness can help people suffering from depression and anxiety just as much as commonly prescribed anti-depressant drugs. Practicing mindfulness would offer a long-term approach to dealing with depression.
Here is a small story mentioned in the classic guide of Thich Nhat HanH’s The Miracle of Mindfulness stating the importance of practicing mindfulness of one’s own self- that is, to protect and care for one’s self and not being preoccupied about the way others look after themselves, which gives rise to resentment and anxiety.
“There once were a couple of acrobats. The teacher was a poor widower and the student was a small girl named Meḍa. The two of them performed in the streets to earn enough to eat. They used a tall bamboo pole which the teacher balanced on the top of his head while the little girl slowly climbed to the top. There she remained while the teacher continued to walk along the ground. Both of them had to devote all their attention to maintain perfect balance and th prevent any accident from occurring.
One day the teacher instructed the pupil: ‘ Listen Meda, I will watch you and you watch me, so that we can help each other maintain concentration and balance. This way we can prevent an accident and then we will be earn enough to eat.”
But the little girl was wise and answered, ‘Dear master, I think it would be better for each of us to watch ourself. To look after oneself means to look after both of us. That way we will avoid accident and will earn enough to eat.” Because of the presence of one member who lives in mindfulness, everyone else is reminded to live in mindfulness.
Don’t worry about if those around you aren’t doing their best. Doing your best is the surest way to remind those around you to do their best.
Sitting in mindfulness and trying to pay attention to the present moment can bring relaxation to your body and mind. Everyday little and often, practice mindfulness. Practicing even in small doses can help you experience the well-being.