Honestly, when I first heard about meditation, I thought there may be something mystical about the experience.

Was somewhat hopeful I’d experience a crazy, drug like state.

However after practicing regularly for about 2 years now, I’m convinced that isn’t the case.

My meditation routine involves sitting down in the morning, first thing after waking, and before turning my phone off airplane mode.

Avoiding the phone is important, because if I turn it on, most my meditation will involve my brain churning over any messages I just received. Not peaceful, and not useful.

Sitting down, I initiate a stopwatch (have been using the one built into the fitbit), close my eyes, and focus on being present. I use the timer to get a feel for how long I’ve been sitting. A metric that by now, I can often estimate accurately without the device – but I continue to use it for accurate perspective.

What does being present mean? Well, specifically, paying attention to my breath and the sensations in my body. In contrast to being caught up in streams of thought.

Without fail, and relatively quickly, I lose awareness of the present, and my mind slips into thoughts.

Typically upon first meditating, my mind is consciously processing events from the day before.

Much like sleep gives our unconscious time to process, the morning meditation brings that into the conscious.

From time to time whilst thinking, I will notice that I’m thinking, and bring my awareness back into the present.

For me, this lasts only briefly, and then again I’m lost in thought.

Initially, I was concerned by this. “Oh my god, I’m so bad at meditating” – and I am, its true.

But over time I’ve come to accept how the process unfolds. And its begun to make me aware of how much of my life is spent lost in thoughts.

I would say that part of this is down to lifestyle. Instead of spending time outdoors working with my hands, my occupation has me indoors using computers.

Very thought heavy work, that relies on lots of *thinking*, and doesn’t reward mindfulness a great deal.

And that probably counts for a lot of people these days.

But on top of that, I guess mindfulness isn’t something that’s taught in our current culture. And thus we default to thinking.

And sometimes we default to thought for good reason. Uncomfortable circumstances that we don’t enjoy are easier blocked out by thoughts. Other times its simply a case of our brain being on autopilot without us having any awareness or control.

As time goes by with the meditation practice, you start to notice this trained awareness bleeds over into everyday life. You might find yourself somewhere, lost in thought, and you wake yourself up again into the present.

I think this is a good thing.

Even if a lot of the time I’m actively trying to escape out of the present through music, podcasts, newsfeeds etc.

Summarising the benefits I get from meditation:

– Opportunity to process recent events

– A calming effect as I reduce the amount of thinking, and come briefly into the present

– A greater awareness of the dreamlike state I’m often defaulting to (thinking, thinking, thinking)

– More mindfulness day to day, outside of the specific meditation practice

– Slightly greater self control than otherwise. Although I’d like to improve on this. For example when I’m lost in thought, on autopilot, I might start doing something at odds with any goals I have. And occasionally through improved mindfulness I’ll notice this happening and be able to re-route back towards something useful.

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Posted by John Alexander

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