Just recently I visited a meditation class, I have been to quite a few meditation classes in my life.
I keep attending these classes because I really like the idea of learning how to meditate, I know I can do it in my own home in a quiet corner of my house but it is always enjoyable to be part of a group that is focused on mediation. I have tried a western stoic based meditation class, Tibetan Buddhist meditation and several other new age type Meditation classes.
The one thing that I have noticed in all these different styles of meditation classes is there is plenty of bullshit you have to wade through before you can gain some good advice for focusing your mind on meditating.
To put it bluntly I am not really into the spiritual part of meditation but lean more towards the the scientific, I look at its benefits in ways it can reduce stress in your life. That’s not to say that I don’t find the spiritual aspect interesting I am just unsure if it is integral to Meditation.
I find this a very good explanation of meditation: “We define meditation… as a stylized mental technique… repetitively practiced for the purpose of attaining a subjective experience that is frequently described as very restful, silent, and of heightened alertness, often characterized as blissful” -Jevning et al
Sometimes I have noticed that meditation classes turn into a kind of counseling session, sort of like a self help group for people who can’t relax it can sometimes get a little out of control and start to take over the actual meditating.
My main concern at the classes however is the thinking behind the institutionalised practice of the meditation. Tibetan Buddhism styled meditation is a religion, it is a practice that is undertaken every day by monks for centuries the aims are religious in nature, as an atheist I am always aware that I can’t just disconnect that and just take the meditation without this element of spiritualism.
“Most techniques of meditation do not exist as solitary practices but are only artificially separable from an entire system of practice and belief ” -R.E Ornstein
It is the same with some western styles of meditation, taken from western philosophy or from a mixture of east and west they combine systems of practice and belief many of which are centuries old and which sometimes gnash uncomfortably with the modern mind.
O.k I know what you are all thinking, if your going to pick apart meditation you are totally ‘not getting it’. I have I wish to point out, faithfully practiced institutionalized versions of meditation, it is usally afterwards when I go back to using the tools that have been suggested that the religious and spiritual elements bug me enough to stop meditating.
Realistically meditation is something you do sometimes, it can help you de-stress and to become clearer in life and has real health benefits but it has it’s limitations.
I find you have to kind of force yourself to meditate or train yourself to be in a meditative state. It really isn’t a thing that ever comes naturally.
Meditation really is an enigma, you have to focus intensely on not focusing on anything which creates a kind of classic philosophical paradox of the mind.
Once in a Tibetan Meditation session I was told my goal was not to ‘think’ I found it very hard to believe they where serious, however I gave it a shot and my reaction was to hit a kind of brain malfunction cycle- ‘don’t think, don’t think, don’t think. Breathing exercises have the same result if you are told to focus on breathing you will focus on that..breathe breathe I am breathing breathe you are concentrating on breathing.
Which prompts me to ask, then why can’t we as humans just do this thing; this important de-stresser and evolutionary release valve, why isn’t meditation just part of something we all able to do easily on a daily basis?
Evolution made us stressed up and highly strung, unable to meditate.. maybe because there was always that leopard waiting behind the bushes to eat us.