A complete well balanced health as defined by WHO's (1948) constitution is - "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." In May 1984, the 37th World Health Assembly took the historic decision to adopt resolution, which made the "spiritual dimension" part and parcel of WHO Member States' strategies for health but sadly failed to add it to the overall definition of health. Even to have a perfect physical and mental health is also not sufficient.
We may not be able to admit openly but the fact remains that many amongst us aren't happy the way they are and the way we conduct ourselves. Secretly, we regret our actions, reactions and given a chance many would like to be an improved version than they are in their current physical or emotional states. Physical well-being (or improved fitness levels) require a lot of dietary discipline and regular physical training sessions. However, we often read and see in News that many with perfect bodily health (national and international sport-persons and cine stars) engage themselves acts unworthy and sometimes punishable by law. How does that happen?
To be able to create a better version of ourselves if first are able to see (visualize, observe) what we’re doing. Meditation is one such method of self-observation that empowers us with an ability of an objective observation -an observation that is not so easy, in fact quite difficult. But hold for a second. Here I am not saying that mediation is difficult but objective observation about ourselves without meditation is. Meditation practice -done regularly makes everything not only easier but very easy overtime.
An honest self-observation (meditation) practice is an opportunity for real self-transformation for every practitioner. This is their chance to be the change in the world you’ve hoped to see in everyone else as was said by Mahatma Gandhi.
Read further, if you are feeling interested to know about in simple terms; how your regular meditation practice makes thing easier for you.
Regular practice – Meditation is more than a mental skill and like any other physical or artistic skill a regular practitioner gets better at it. Practice make a person perfect. So is also true to the minds’ who are learning to practice -meditation. If you’re not regular at observing yourself (thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions etc.) in an impartial manner (equanimity) and on a regular basis, it won’t be easy for you to still your mind, which is continuously creating thoughts, emotions, reaction to physical and mental stimuli from around and even beyond.
Awake but unaware – Most of us whilst we are fully awake and alert remain at most times in a state of unawareness to hundreds of thoughts, feelings and emotions generated in our minds and bodies. Let me give you an extreme example; Try to recall, when you are very anxious or emotionally charged with anger etc. your heart races, body parts shake and what you think or say are mostly or totally beyond your awareness. However, once the precipitating cause of extreme turbulence is over and mind gains some stillness, you immediately begin to become aware of everything happening inside and outside to your body and what you have said or done. Something similar happens in our daily lives as well even when we are neither angry nor emotionally charged but at our natural best. This is what I call, as in that state of “Awake Unconsciousness”. The good news is with regular practice of meditation self-observation; this will change sooner or later. This varying degrees of natural unconsciousness (unawareness) will change over time as you try to observe yourself more and more. You will begin to sense that “everything within” is like a ripple in a water body which is getting created, rises and then fades down to disappear. This is the state of awareness, one achieves. It’s quite an experience to be able to see (observe) what will come up next.
Self-imposed unconsciousness: There are times, when one may want to avoid to face a situation both; physically or mentally. Most refer these as escapists. Those who adopt this method are actually imposing up on themselves -a state of unconsciousness towards a reality that exists but they do not want to face. This happens with everyone sometimes or the other. Some of you may recall at the peak of examination stress, you will go to sleep or waste time calling your friend or engage in some other time wasting activity to escape the stress but eventually get more stressed out after a few hours once the period of the escape is over. Similarly, one may have certain feelings about a situation that they don’t even want to admit to themselves. This is when period of self-observation within oneself (meditation) helps. It helps that person to develop that courage required to face whatever it is that the person was running away. Overtime this habit of self-observation helps to find or develop one’s own strength to see it, accept it, feel it or let go the fear of unknown.
Detached vs Attached or Equanimity – Our brain generates between incredible 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day. That’s an average of 2500 – 3,300 thoughts per hour or between 35 and 48 thoughts per minute. Is anyone of us is capable of being aware of such massive Tsunami of thoughts in our brains? No wonder, such a mind is busy all the time dealing with them unable to identify, which are useful and beneficial thoughts as it is entangled in its own hindering web. Now there could be 2 ways to deal with this entanglement (hindrance); one that we are able to stop generating thoughts and second is, we become strong enough to with stand them. It is indeed possible that one may be able to reach a level of mental stillness that number thoughts that are generated are regulated but until such stage is reached one can prevent “getting caught up” in the flow of thoughts by simply observing them then getting involved in them. Please note a very fine line exists between “what you’re thinking about” versus “what thoughts you’re observing”. * (See section on how to do meditation)
Unexplained experiences aren’t harmful – Initially many practitioners experience physical sensations or emotional feelings in varying forms (pleasant or unpleasant); c.f. some heaviness, lightness, an unexplained emotion, a thought, an intention, a desire one wasn’t aware they had. If this happens, don’t get alarmed or stop your practice. Simply turn your mind towards observing that feeling, emotion or sensation and wait like an observant cat waiting for a mouse out of its hole. Be an observer and not a player. Sometimes these experiences may even test your commitment as we may have the tendency to judge ourselves. It sometimes tests courage when someone encounter something unpleasant. It is important to remember to you are to remain an observer and a participant of the experience of any kind. Sooner or later, the mind starts to observe even an unpleasant experience with complete equanimity without any attachment or detachment after it has learned to embrace all that it sees or experiences around or within.
Desire or expectations – Very simply, the whole idea of practicing self-observation (meditation) is to remain observant at all times. Then where is the question of any kind of desire or expectations from this practice? Keep your mind and soul open and ready to discover on your journey of self-realization through self-observation.
It will be helpful to every prospective practitioner to know about some of these important aspects of self-observation (meditation) practice as you take your initial steps. Always remember, the time when it all seem difficult, it is at that time you need to practice, anyhow, somehow. The real joy is in the seeing and not escaping!
How to do Meditation: Meditation can be practiced anytime of the day and anywhere. However, the best times are; early morning on an empty stomach after you have freshened up or before retiring, in the night. Always try to give this activity your full attention. Believe me, meditation becomes easier if you make it a habit during regular daily activities as well. It is an awesome activity because you can do it any day, anywhere all the time, even while walking. Self-observation does not necessarily require having free time unless you are using it, in your sitting meditations.
* Initially when you start to sit still and trying to observe your own thoughts and later even finer bodily sensations, you may find that mind has wandered. Don’t hate it, don’t even try to control it -just observe it. It will come back like an obedient child. Slowly and slowly, your mind will become more and more obedient and shall stay in one place for longer periods. You’ll also begin to become familiar with the difference between being “caught in the thoughts” versus observing them. You will also be able to measure your own success when you’re observing more than getting caught in the web of your thoughts and sensations.