Meditation experiences by a sceptic

f1Ok, long story short: meditation works.

I had no idea about meditation practices, my only -elusive- view on the subject was looking at some photos and posters showing people with eyes closed in this familiar posture we have all seen. Being in Dubai for the past 2.5 years and witnessing people from west embracing eastern habits along with some personal curiosity and a bad ..coincidence, i decided to give it a try. Downloading a popular application on my phone was the first step. The different video scenes were already captivating and causing an unexplainable feeling of calmness just by looking at their apparent simplicity. I mean what can be more simple than water flowing?

Start listening to someone telling me what to do and how to think (well just noticing different aspects of my breath for start) was new. Couldn’t understand why and the experience initially seemed to be only about relaxing and focusing on the breath. Slowly a larger picture started to reveal itself: you cannot stop your mind from thinking, that is its main function actually, around 70,000 thoughts a day. What meditation accomplishes is minimizing your reaction to the content of the thoughts by focusing on the breath again and again. Simple things like counting inhales, or body scans while breathing, intend to create a behavioral trait that allows for better focus in daily life, not only during meditation.

Another important aspect that i found extremely interesting was the mental awareness of the rise of feelings and pinpointing the actual cause of that as well. There is a cycle of thought, feeling, thought that someone can interfere with and interrupt it if that is his/her intention, but first should be aware of its existence. Personally i found myself (or my brain to be exact) having random thoughts that were coming out of the blue, unrelated to what i was doing at that moment. Moreover i realized that my reactions during discussions that could easily provoke an emotional reaction were modest. Simple things like a doorbell during a very quiet moment or a phone ringing were not that irritating as before (I re-invented the wheel by saying this, not to mention writing the article in the first place).

After 5 months i can feel the benefits. There is sometimes an unexplainable feeling of calmness and connection to the environment at random moments, doesn’t last long but it is there. There are also micro-benefits during daily events that help cope with the situation at hand. And of course, especially during exhales, there can be a momentarily interaction of gravity and your body where you actually feel the sinking towards the ground (ok, towards the center of the planet or along a geodesic to be 100% accurate according to uncle Einstein) which can be felt throughout your entire body’s mass.

Scientifically what happens after a significant time of meditation is a brain rewiring along with a reduction in size of the amygdala (not exactly my favorite part of the brain). Scientific community has quantified many of the physiological changes that take place. There are people, especially in east Asia, where meditation is part of their daily routine since there were kids. I can only begin to understand how these people react to given stimuli compared to “us”. And i wish i had this experience decades (ok, 2) ago. There are many ways to meditate, i won’t refer to any specifically since i) meditation is a personalized experience and ii) there are so many books and resources for someone to start. There can be visual or audio stimuli, smells, other sensory inputs, mantras etc. Whatever makes you happier.

And i have never used the most popular body posture, i do it lying in bed 🙂

Bibliography, my personal favorite: Meditation made easy – Lorin Roche

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3 comments

  1. Extremely interesting, not the least because spiritualism should at some point be drawn out of the realm of supernatural beliefs (“spiritualism” in the sense of dealing with the mind/brain, perception, different states and so on; if you prefer a different term I’m okay with it!)
    At the danger of piggybacking others’ blogs instead of starting my own 🙂 I’d like to say that the practice you describe is the preparatory practice for meditation. It’s true that almost everything written on meditation, especially on the web and in the west, describes actions similar to those that I understand you refer to here. But it is a preparation, in the same way that hatha yoga, the most popular type of yoga in the west, is just preparation to make one’s body strong enough for the exercises of more advanced, let me say psychosomatic, types.
    Of course it’s also true that many people speak of tangible benefits from this “preparatory” meditation. Imho in the vast majority of cases it is only because they sat down and tried to relax and take control of their “consumerist” mindset for the first time in their lives. Their loud exclamations and constant talking of how transformed they were just confirms that not much more has changed.
    Imho again, in what you describe there are more effects than that (e.g. the changed reactions to stimuli), which I guess means that something seriously started working. But if anyone can say anything about the more “advanced” practice, its goal definitely is brain rewiring, but not in such a straightforward way as by just concentrating on the breath.
    So I should stop instead of being the person who writes post-long comments :] I hope it’s fine that this very interesting entry triggered me to share some info for your and the readers’ consumption.

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    • Indeed there is a lot of material on the web. I tried to present a very clear picture of the changes I experienced. I’ve seen blogs and heard of practices that mix new age terms, one being “quantum”. And i believe i know your reaction to this 🙂

      Now when it comes to yoga, i tried sometimes but I didn’t like it much, not because i lack the flexibility (which i indeed lack! 🙂 ) but i admit i care mostly about the mental than the body part. And yes, i know they go together. Perhaps i should give it another try. One instructor was like “do this, stretch that and you will never get sick, toxins are removed now as we speak”. Ok.. I mean to approach people like me, i need something more concrete, it’s even better if no-one talks like this as well 🙂

      I approached meditation with curiosity, at my own pace, didn’t expect anything and perhaps this was better than the self fulfilling prophecies of many people all over the web 🙂

      Comment’s length is fine for me 🙂

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      • About the yoga thing, and I agree totally on the “more concrete” and the mental part, look for kundalini aka kriya yoga. (Kundalini is a subset of tantra, but I don’t really know about this; even sessions focused on the chakras could be good; I write all this because kundalini classes are rather hard to come by). There’s lots of material on the internet because kundalini practice was passed down to the west by a single person in an era when documenting things was easier than in the past, *but* starting with a teacher is needed to get the exercises right, at least in the beginning.
        Afaik hatha has been everyday health practice in India for centuries, but yes, this is not the “psychosomatic” version 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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