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Meditation for a Mindful Existence
Meditation practice, in essence, is a time of connecting to yourself and your experience of the present moment in a deeper and more direct way. Though there are many styles and methods, meditation can be distinguished from any specific belief system or worldview, and can be seen as a kind of skills training. It is a training in three strengths: concentration, mindfulness and lovingkindness/compassion.
We often notice that our minds tend to be scattered. We think of making a telephone call and end up subsumed in a cascade of associative thinking. Our thoughts return to an incident three years ago, and we become obsessed with regret about not speaking up when we should have. Or our minds leap forward to worry over the intricacies of a situation that might never come to pass. This quality of repeated distraction wastes our life’s energy.
Imagine gathering all that energy back into yourself, so that it empowers you, so that it becomes available for you to use consciously. This is what concentration does. Concentration is steadiness of mind, the mental skill we are exercising when we are focused. In meditation we focus on a chosen object of concentration (the breath, a visualization, a phrase) and practice repeatedly letting go of distractions and returning our attention to this object.
Through meditation, we come closer and closer to the actual living reality of our bodies and minds. We do this through refining our power of mindfulness, the ability to connect fully and directly to our experience in the moment, no matter what it is. We see different aspects of our inner world for what they are—passing thoughts and feelings— without becoming lost in habitual reaction.
For instance, we might have the habit of concluding, “If I feel anger it means I’m a bad person,” so we try to deny the anger churning inside. Or our tendency might be to get swept up in the firestorm of anger and lash out. With awareness, we learn to draw close in a skillful way to what we’re feeling, learn more about it, and, based on the insights we gather, make conscious choices about how to respond in any situation.