What is meditation?
People are conditioned in doing. With meditation we bring ourselves from doing to being. Doing nothing at all, but being concentrated with the right effort in the now. Here we can be senseless (sit in silence and watch with attention what the ‘mind’ is drawn to) or use an anchor as a meditation object (such as in the Vipassana meditation), an object where we can focus our concentration. This is often the breathing because it is always there and can therefore always be perceptible. As you meditate more, the perception of breathing becomes better and better as you develop your concentration capacity, but also because you learn to feel better. You observe what happens on an increasingly subtle level. Of course it is true that you can not keep your attention with the meditation object. The mind always remains astray and your attention is drawn by thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and sensory impressions. That this is happening is not very and completely logical. That is what the mind does, that is in the nature of man. You do not try to change this but see that you are distracted and then return to your anchor and try again. It is not about how long you can stay with your concentration with the meditation object, but it is about the intention that you have to stay with the meditation object. And you have the intention, each time you notice that you have strayed, to return to this meditation object. There are meditation forms in which you return directly to your meditation object if you have strayed, but there are also meditation forms in which you first dwell on what you derive. As with Vipassana meditation that I personally value very much because of the philosophy behind it. If you notice meditation at Vipassana that you have strayed, it is the intention that you keep your attention with what you distract, without going into the story. So you look as a spectator. As soon as the thing that distracts you more and more to the background, you will return to your meditation object because it is then more noticeable than what you had derived. For people who are just starting to meditate this is sometimes difficult to understand (a frequently asked question is: how can you be aware of thinking?) If you look at thinking, then you are still thinking that you are distance looks at thinking?) but as you practice more in meditation, the answer automatically unfolds at a given moment. Then it is possible to watch what happens inside yourself, without you getting entangled in it. It may be that what you derive is very strong, for example if someone is very anxious. It is therefore possible that this emotion requires your attention during a meditation session a large part of the time. Then comes the meditation object of which you have the intention to be (the breathing), perhaps not at all. That does not matter, it is then the art to be with what is there . It is the art (which you developed through meditation) to look at what attracts your attention from the role of a spectator. It can help to let go of concepts. Like the concept with the word fear. It is only a word that you have linked yourself to an observation or multiple observations that you do. For example, physical observations (such as muscle tensions) and thoughts (such as a negative scenario). By letting go of the concept and only being aware of what is actually happening, it is possible that it decreases in strength and gives you more insight into how your mind / body works. It is important that you adopt an attitude where nothing needs to or does not have to change. The feelings that are there are there. You do not have anything to do with it, you just look at it here.
Meditation is a training for daily life. It is not about the moment that you sit on your meditation cushion, but how you then integrate the exercise into action throughout the day.
What does meditation do?
Meditation has an impact on many factors. If you are going to meditate, it is assumed that the intention does not have a concrete goal or expectation. I myself was quite tense years ago and I had a number of dilemmas (for me at the time). I went on a short 5-day retreat in Thailand (it was already planned) and I asked my meditation teacher how I can best handle this during the retreat. His answer was that I had to have the intention not to be busy at all during the retreat. That the retreat is not meant to pay attention to these dilemmas. I did this as well as I did (of course it repeatedly asked my attention, but I did not go into it in terms of content). As I walked out of the gates of the temple, I knew exactly what I had to do and I made some rigorous changes in my life that I am still very grateful for.
Through meditation I have been able to step out of the ever-advancing train of life. The space that created this (not thinking) gave me many insights. It gave the opportunity to choose how I want to walk the path, instead of being lived.
The meditation gives insight. Insight into life and especially yourself. In addition, meditation has many other positive effects. There are too many to list, but some important and well-observable effects include the following:
Developing your ability to concentrate
Learning to deal with emotions
You learn to relax
Preventing, and dealing with stress, tension and unrest
You learn to let go more (also called detachment) so you can watch emotional, physical or external events more as a spectator
You developed the ability to view people and situations less with a judgmental mind
You ‘open your heart’. You go different with other beings, which often leads to others handling you differently. In this way you end up in other situations (action, reaction, in Buddhism also derived from the principle Karma).
You know better what is really important to you. This allows you to make better choices. You better walk the way to your own happiness.
There are many more effects and any kind of meditation can also lead to other effects. Just like every person can experience other effects after or during a specific meditation. Some effects are immediately perceptible (a deeper relaxation is of course a frequently heard effect that can be observed directly during a meditation) and other effects are truly transformative and work through the rest of a person’s life.