Understanding the practice of meditation

Stay focused on what matters

There are many forms that a meditation practice takes; it can involve sitting in silence and focusing on the breath, repeating a mantra or following a guided meditation.

No matter what style we practise, the aim is to detach from the constant flow of thoughts in the mind and observe ourselves. For meditators who have been practising consistently for many years, they transcend into a blissful state of awareness. Indian yogi and guru Paramahansa Yogananda described meditation as “recharging the body battery with cosmic energy” as it reconnects us to our higher consciousness.

General practitioner Dr Richard Yin says the Tibetan translation of meditation is better understood with the word ‘familiarisation’. “When we teach meditation, it’s important to understand meditation isn’t just a singular practice but something you study, you contemplate and you do – it’s a package,” he says. “The practice is to familiarise yourself with something, and you can train yourself or familiarise yourself in lots of things, such as to be kinder, to be more awake, to be determined, to have greater generosity, which can be achieved by practising more and more in how you wish to become.”

Dr Yin sees meditation as a spiritual practice that creates openness, kindness and relatedness to all life. “What you’re doing, in a classic sense, is contemplating ideas put forward in how to live an ethical, meaningful life that might include ideas around being kind, seeing our inter-connectedness with an understanding of mortality and, with that, wish to be more present and engaged in living,” he says. “Those contemplations and reflection studies support us so we can create a structure around that practice to take it into your life in some way.”

Once seen as a mystical Eastern practice, this spiritual practice has risen stratospherically in the Western world as the overwhelming health benefits of meditation have been discovered. A JAMA Internal Medicine report showed in more than 47 trials that mindfulness meditation programs improved anxiety, depression and pain at a moderate level and further evidence showed reduced stress and a greater quality of life.

Meditation or mindfulness help us retrain our mind so we recognise the thoughts we have as not necessarily the truth, but simply thoughts, and avoid attaching too much meaning to them. By remaining present and mindful, we lessen the chance of dwelling in the past and lamenting what has been, which can lead to depression or worrying about what may or may not happen in the future, a common cause of anxiety.

“Meditation offers you a way of not getting engaged or caught up in a problem that we can’t control; it allows us to respond more appropriately in a sense of staying focused on what’s present,” says Dr Yin. “The only thing you have is this moment and this moment is particularly precious. There comes a greater meaning and intentionality within a lived life.”

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