More and more people nowadays secretly fall in love with the practice of meditation. But despite all its popularity, there are still very few who actually know and understand what meditation is. Why is it so confusing and why is it important to set things straight? First and most importantly, for the best personal experience.
Meditation and concentration are the two terms which seem to be very similar, but are also very often mixed up and confused one with another. Some people consider meditation to be strictly concentration on one object or thing, that can supposedly bring them peace of mind or focus. Unfortunately, this is all wrong, and it’s one of the primary reasons why many give up on the meditation practice, thinking they are not able to achieve the desired results. Concentration and meditation are mental states and do focus on a particular target or object, that’s true. But the difference lies in personal experience, ways of practice and what we are trying to achieve.
When you concentrate, you focus on one thing. You fix your attention on something particular, it can be an object or an idea, for an extended period of time. You use concentration as your mental exercise, but your mind is still distracted by many other thoughts that come to your mind. Our minds are very active and extremely hard to control, especially for people who live busy and stressful lives. Trying to quiet down the voice in your mind can be a tough task, but it’s not impossible. So, how different is the meditation practice? Imagine three things: you, your target/object, and your practice. You are the most important thing in the meditation practice, because you have the need, feeling and willingness to practice, you do it for yourself. Your target is anything you want to focus on. It can be a material thing, it can be a feeling, a sunset, you name it. It’s up to you to decide whatever it is, but you must always think about something that brings importance to yourself. Your practice is about sharpness. If you have a knife that isn’t sharp, it won’t do the job because you won’t be able to cut many things with it. The same happens to your mind. If your mind doesn’t have the sharpness, you won’t focus and achieve the desired result. When you concentrate, those three things are there, but you break the cycle by having too many distractions, making it impossible to achieve the unity of all. When you practice meditation, you focus on something free of distractions. There is only you, your target and your practice, all in balance and harmony. Your meditation becomes a personal experience where the mind is not allowed to interrupt.
The practice of meditation is indeed a practice and requires a lot of preparation. It’s not just a concentration on something particular, but it’s the effortless state of awareness. Awareness of oneself. It’s very important to take time and prepare for your meditation, making sure you have the right posture (Asana), and you control your breathing (Pranayama). Mastering your posture means having control over your body. Controlling your breathing means you have a better chance to calm down and still your mind. There are many different techniques you can try in order to start with meditation, but it’s important to realize that, as with everything, it takes time to master your practice. For beginners and active people, it’s very advisable to start with walking meditation that helps them focus and calm down. Many people want to start with sitting meditation right away, but there is a reason why usually only those who have the intermediate level can do it correctly. Physical well-being is extremely important as you need to make sure your body doesn’t have any pain when you practice meditation, and sitting meditation requires you to be able to sit comfortably without feeling pain in your back, legs, and muscles.
Whatever you do, you do it for yourself. Take it slowly, one step at a time. If you have to practice concentration before starting with meditation, do it. Train your mind to focus on one thing, take care of your mental and physical well-being and then try meditation. It won’t cost you an effort, because all meditation is effortless, bringing you peace, harmony, and inner balance.
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