When we have a job we are generally allotted vacation time; why? When we go to the gym or do some repetitive strength exercise we do a certain number of sets and rest in-between, why? After running all-
nighters we often feel groggy and sleep deprived, why? The answer to these questions involves some scientific explanation, but the bottom line is that the body wants and needs rest. A grinder, iron, car or any other type of machinery will eventually lose functionality if left on all day every day. We know this so either we pull the plug or somehow switch off the machinery when it is not in use; shouldn’t this reasoning be extrapolated to the
body and mind also?
When the body is pushed too far it shows signs of needing and wanting rest. Our muscles may start shaking, our body speed (reflexes, movements) may slow down, or our eyes and other organs may start lagging or dozing off. What happens when the mind is pushed too far? Of course it manifests itself in physical fatigue, but when we rest our bodies we do not necessarily rest our minds.
Sleeping is a way to rest the mind; while sleep replenishes our energies leaving us refreshed when we wake studies have shown that meditation not only augments the benefits received during sleep, but also increases positivity, decreases negativity, and boosts our health systems. Meditation is a practice that gives the mind a rest from the constant activities it is involved in: thinking, analyzing, deliberating, conspiring, etc. The constant chatter that fills our minds causes disease and restlessness to the body and mind. Quieting the mind serves not only as an exercise in relaxation, but also replenishes our vaults of energy and peacefulness.
Typically, when one thinks of meditation a Buddha like figure pops into mind: a calm and serene person sitting under a bamboo tree in lotus
position with their eyes in a closed state. Most of us aren’t able or willing to substitute ourselves for that Buddha like figure either because meditation is too time consuming or has always been reserved for the more ‘conscious’ souls. Meditation involves quieting the mind which is harder to do in public places, when you are doing some non-automated movement, when you are doing some mental exercise, or sitting idle. We have conditioned our minds to believe that meditation is possible for supreme souls and is therefore difficult as the mind’s natural state is to think, deliberate, ruminate, analyze, and wander. Our senses constantly provide the brain and mind stimuli to decipher and judge, thus public places hinder the attempt to quite the mind; when doing a movement our minds must put some thought into the subsequent movements, thus quieting the mind may be harder task when performing some movement, although the body is at rest when playing a game like crossword or Sudoku, the mind is busy formulating and thus prevents a quieting of the mind; an idle mind conforms into its natural state and is so not conducive to quieting the mind. As with anything changing the natural state of something (gasàsolid, fatàthin or negativeàpositive) requires some effort and time.
When in a state of meditation the mind is at rest, it is at peace. It has no stimulus to analyze, judge, or register and no room for thoughts. It is helpful to visualize something, chant something, or listen to something whilst trying to meditate; our focus and attention eliminates any additional thoughts. We generally block our senses i.e. shut our eyes and sit in a quiet place. Visualizing entails focusing your attention on a mental image. Chanting entails concentrating a repeating a mantra. Mantra is a Sanskrit word meaning to liberate the mind. Yoga nidra and the like are spoken meditations that induce the student into the desired state.
These are the traditional ways to reach a meditative state, but many of us find this practice weary and grueling. Meditation should not be forced, but should be sought out for its peaceful qualities: not as a means to an end but an end itself. If sitting quietly under a tree while cutting off sensory stimulation to your brain seems too tedious and daunting consider engaging yourself to find your Flow. One can enter the state of Flow by doing what one enjoys. Dr. Martin Seligman referred to someone who experienced Flow by entering into the stock exchange. Artists, entrepreneurs, scientists enter Flow and have made many creations and discoveries this way. Consider determining your own strengths at authentighappiness.com and constructing your work and play activity according to them. Finding a balance between what you are skilled at and what challenges you is key synergy to finding your Flow. Interest and understanding what you are doing goes without saying.
Doing something you enjoy makes it easier for the mind to enter into the state of Flow. Find what you are good at, what interests you, and what intrigues and excites your mind and there you will find a door that will direct you to the experience of Flow. It is in this experience that you can reach the meditative state. In the state of Flow your mind is on auto-focus negating any idling or observatory thoughts and on autopilot cutting out (most) of the thought process involved. So get in tune with you Flow today, and experience meditative sanctuary.