In his famous novel, Hermann Hesse wrote that the main character, Siddhartha, when asked about his skills, used to answer: “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.”
All these three qualities are absent in animals, and are distinct to human beings.
Meditation goes one step beyond thinking, to become aware of one’s thinking and to consciously reflect on one’s thought processes. Meditation is not to think of something (though that too has its benefits, for example, to ponder over the saying of a great man).
Meditation is to observe one’s thinking, or to simply remain aware and conscious without any directed activity. No activity, physical or mental, as far as one can manage.
Basic meditation is as simple as:
- On a preferably empty stomach, sit down comfortably with your eyes closed.
- Just remain aware and conscious, instead of getting lost in thought or in daydreaming.
You might ask, aware of what? Just remain aware of what is going on: sounds around you, thoughts inside your head, your bodily sensations, your breathing, the slight movement of your eyelids, your heartbeat, …
In the beginning, sit for ten minutes. After a daily practice of a month, you can increase the duration to be half an hour. Eventually, aim to sit quietly and meditate for one hour.
What are the benefits of thus sitting quietly?
There are five fundamental benefits to this kind of meditation, no matter if you do it for ten minutes or one hour. Obviously, doing it longer is better. But an hour is more than enough for a normal man.
- You will, gradually, become the master of your mind. Your mind constantly tempts to flow with this distraction or that distraction. By holding it firm during your meditation, you are taming its distractability. You will become more focused and efficient in your daily life.
- You will become more aware of your body and senses. Due to this increased awareness, you will better enjoy your normal sensory experiences.
- You will see a reduction in your stress levels and you will sleep better. If you allow the mind to be consciously idle, it refreshes itself and the stressful thoughts and feelings become mild and manageable. You might find that after a session of meditation, you can calmly deal with any crisis that you might be facing.
- You will be able to respond to situations better in your day-to-day life. Instead of immediately reacting, a quiet mind takes in the situation and the available information, and thoughtfully plans a response. It will respond, not react.
- You will become more disciplined in other aspects of your life. A meditator will not over-eat, not over-sleep, not dress shabbily, and so on. Because you are doing something daily as a conscious activity, automatically your will-power, discipline and orderliness will see an improvement.