Meditation for many reasons have become more and more popular today. These reasons include the praise it get from famous entrepreneurs and investors like Tim Ferriss and Ray Dalio, the many meditation related videos people can find and learn from on Youtubes, and the growing self-help industry. It almost comes to a point where mediation is marketed as some sort of magic that can unlock the full power of your brain or something like that. In reality, it is not that magical but it is definitely one of the most useful tools you can use to improve your daily life. Today, I am going to talk about what meditation is and how it really works.
What is Meditation Anyway?
Meditation is simply a way to clear your mind. There is a analogy that I have heard of before and I think it is a good one to describe how meditation helps us. Life is like driving a plane. Even if your goal is clear and you want to drive straight ahead towards your goal. There will be wind coming from the left and from the right to force to move away from your desired track. We have to steer the plane a little bit to get back on track. The consistently subtle steering is what meditation is supposed to do. There are things that happen to us everyday that can make our emotion either too high or too low. But we can only make our best and most logical decisions when our emotion is right at the middle. Meditation is a tool that can reset our mind and make us get back to the center emotionally.
How Meditation Works?
To briefly describes how meditation works, I will try to sum it up in a few sentences and then I will later explain in details in the rest of my writing. To meditate, you need to assign a simple task to your mind to do. Some examples of the simple task is to observe your breath or to read a mantra repeatedly in your mind. When there are thoughts that come up during your meditation, don’t pay attention to the thoughts and just say hi and let them pass by. Continue to do your simple task if you observe that you have stopped. Continue this process for more than 10 minutes to make your mind clear. After the meditation, you should have a clear mind that allows you to work more effectively and make more rational decisions.
First Understanding Our Monkey Mind
Now, you have a general idea of what meditation is and roughly how it works. Let’s look at more details and have a better and deeper understanding of meditation. As mentioned, meditation is a tool for the brain. So, to begin with, let’s learn about our mind. Our mind just doesn’t seem to like stop moving. It is always moving and trying to process data and thoughts, even if we try to stop it. This never-stopping behavior of the mind is sometimes referred to as the “monkey mind” in the world of meditation. Since stopping it is not possible, the closest thing we can do to rest our mind is to let our mind perform a simple task. And that’s really what meditation is. Assigning a “part time job” to our mind so it can stop doing the “full time job” is the big idea about meditation.
Why Thoughts Keep Coming Up When I Meditate?
When you meditate, you are also opening a tunnel between your conscious mind and your subconscious mind. Think about it as a side-benefit of resting your mind. Thoughts and ideas will flow from your subconscious mind into your conscious mind. These thoughts can be some good ideas or just some random thoughts or even random things that you pick up from watching TV. The best way to handle these thoughts is to simply “say hi” to them and now to process them and simply let them pass by. When these thoughts flow in, it is very common that you would naturally stop doing the small task that you are supposed to be doing, like reading a mantra or observing your breath. Once you discover that you have stopped doing the small task, start doing the small task again. It is worth noting that some people like to process about the thoughts that flow into the mind. I prefer to stick with the core principle of not to think during meditation. Usually, if a bright idea flow into your mind during meditation, you can ignore it during your meditation session, yet your idea won’t be forgotten if the idea is truly brilliant. Therefore, you can always handle the good ideas after meditation.
Is Meditation Making Me Smarter?
As mentioned, many people believe that meditation is a magical tool that can make them more brilliant. Although that’s not correct, there are some truth in it. It really comes down to how you define smart. Let’s for the sake of easy understanding assume that our mind is a computer. If our computer have a maximum capacity of processing 1GB of data per second, there is no tool that can help me exceed that. However, most of the time, the computer has many apps already open occupying its bandwidth, so it can only process 0.5GB of data per second for example. Now, if I hit the reset button, the apps are closed and the bandwidth is released so that it can now process 1GB of data per second again. In other words, due to our busy life which occupies part of our mind, our mind is often not performing at its best. Meditation is our “reset button” that helps us clear our mind. As a result, our mind will start performing at close to its best again. With a clear mind, we can make better and more rational decisions, so there are reasons to say that we are smarter due to meditation.
The big idea behind meditation and how it works actually makes a lot of sense. We are simply provide some well-deserved rest to our mind.