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Monday, December 11, 2023

Life + Arts

Meditation 101: The importance of finding inner peace, how to get there

A woman with dark brown skin and long black hair engages in meditation, sitting cross-legged on the ground

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Many people are too quick to disregard meditation as a way of handling stress. To some, it can seem “silly” or “ineffective.” But contrary to what many might assume, meditation can be very effective and more people should consider trying it.

Whenever we think of meditation many people understand it as simply a method of relieving stress or anxiety. But fully studying the practice of meditation can lead to discovering so much more, including the often under-appreciated spiritual benefits.

Understanding the essence of how meditation works is just as important, if not more, than understanding its benefits. Just hearing about the potential benefits can be intriguing, but knowing how it works as a whole can help you get real results.

Meditation is simply a technique that helps the practitioner to get to the action of not thinking. Not thinking, living in the present moment and being happy as you are, are common phrases used to refer to this stasis-like feeling.

Getting into this state of “not thinking” can provide a lot of balance, especially for anyone who struggles with “overthinking.” Overthinking, on the contrary, can overwhelm the mind, cloud our judgment and make us act irrationally. 

Even more, some studies have suggested that meditation can make you more rational, smarter and happier because it prevents the loss of grey matter in the brain. Those who meditate have been observed to have a thicker prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for our attention span. 

People have also been reported to be overall kinder after meditation. Meditation can have a lot of benefits, to be sure. However, the process of getting to that place of inner peace may require some training and patience. 

Telling someone to simple “not think” can be harder said than done. Even if you try to not think right now, odds are good you would end up actually thinking about not thinking. Ironically, trying to get into a meditative state can sometimes make you more anxious!

Your mind can be pretty resistant to your attempts to quiet it, no matter how much you want to. But if not thinking is the goal, then meditation is the means- the boat guiding you across a river- to get there. 

To be able to meditate successfully is to let go of all the attachments and stressors in your life, and to eventually be fully detached.

Hard as it may be, you need to detach yourself from the environment and any external stimuli, and you especially need to detach from your emotions and thoughts. Everything that causes internal havoc must be left aside for the time being. 

Meditation is often described as an “observation” of the mind because you are not forcing yourself to not think. Rather, you are observing the emotions and thoughts that come to your mind and not bothering to give any importance to them. 

Invasive thoughts or worries will naturally dissipate when you do not focus on them. Simply “observing” them will cast them in a light in which you can see them better. By seeing these worries clearly, you can calmly approach even the most stressful situations in your life.

When someone manages to find a general detachment from overwhelming situations, they are then able to naturally understand the best way forward because they will never be in a “state of lack”. 

This “state of lack,”  a state in which one fixates on what they don’t have, is what causes a lot of stress and anxiety in the first place.

In contrast to this “state of lack,” a person who truly feels abundance and gratitude for what they already have would not be anxious or stressed. Instead of worrying about what they want, they’re able to be at peace in their current state.

Feeling doubts about our abilities, when we perceive ourselves to not be capable of achieving what we want, or when we undermine our self-worth, all contribute to that state of lack. 

Just think about everything in which you might feel fear or doubt about in your life: That big upcoming test, financial problems, disputes over family or work. These external causes are made worse by our own anxiety as we try to overcome them. 

When we believe that we cannot overcome a problem, that adds another problem. Suspicion leads to paranoia,  worry leads to anxiety and anxiety leads to stress.

Meditation is merely the process of leaving that state of lack and entering into the state of simply “being”. In this state, you are capable of being happy and grateful for everything that you already have. In other words, you are fulfilled as you already are.

It is important to note that meditation is a habitual lifestyle. Just as much as drinking water every day becomes an unconscious action that we do to maintain our health, meditation is a practice we have to repeat regularly to stay happy and whole.

To be sure, meditation is not the easiest thing to practice in the beginning. But once one gets into a routine, it can be as easy and satisfying as drinking water to quench your thirst.

So if feeling more aligned and happy with oneself is something you want to achieve, give meditation a try. Inner peace and happiness is underrated nowadays, so why not try to find yours?

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