I have often wondered about the benefits of meditation. A few years ago, I bought a book trying to learn the practice but finding it hard, I dropped it. My first introduction to meditation directed me to concentrate on a single point and holding onto the image as long as possible. Of course, as a beginner, I found it hard as my mind seemed to wander to many subjects. The harder I tried, the more my mind wandered. When will I be able to master this?
When other things in life intruded, I found better – as in fast rewarding – things to do, I forgot about my resolution to work on my meditation daily. The habit never got formed until…
Years later, when the tough gets going, I turned inward for answers. I began reflecting on my life – something that I do from time to time but more consciously when things are not going well – that prompted me to rediscover meditation again.
I have never been real religious having had no particular guidance in that direction and had been deterred during my school-going years by overly zealous Christians dogging my every move trying to get me to church. Still, in my late teens, when a particular situation troubled me tremendously, I started going inward looking for answers and inevitable I turned to praying. While not being affiliated to any religion, I somehow adopted a God to talk to.
I remembered standing at the window, looking out at nothing with tears running freely down my cheeks and just purely focusing on the issue at hand. I explored the various options and asked myself what outcome I wanted from this process. Suddenly an idea dawned on me and I decided to go ahead to try it out. It was a rather radical idea but I did it and it solved my problem. I was seventeen then and it was something I never forget.
Whenever a problem arises, I would go back in time and call up this incident to mind to boost my self confidence in handling any situation. If I have done it before, I can do it again.
Coming back to present time, a year ago I have decided to revisit my interest in meditation once more. I read and research the various meditation methods, putting my resolve to master it. I found that there are different types of meditation; the two main branches: passive and active meditations.
What came out of the research is how meditation is tightly linked to mindfulness and brain plasticity. Being a keen follower in neuroscience development (no, I am not scientist but have an avid interest in the subject), I come across many references and experiments on how long term meditation changes the brain neuro-activity no matter the age, dispelling the notion that the brain stops changing as we mature.
With this new scientific discovery, meditation is no longer in the domain of religions to which meditation is so closely related. To me the words “meditation”, “spirituality” and “the mind” have started to become synonymous. That opens up an aperture of interest in a wider dimension from the original intent and my interest is renewed to a brand new level.
The most complex organ in the human body, the brain is continually the subject of researches and investigations. Yet there remain many unanswered questions.
I am not sure where this interest will take me but I am sure it would be something real exciting. At the moment, for the past 9 months or more now, I have been trying daily, every morning and night and sometime in between to practise meditation for a few minutes to as long as an hour although I have yet to determine if that is active or passive meditation. Still I find it peaceful and more in control of myself – at least that is how it feels to me. Other benefits? I will let you know when I know…perhaps my practice is still too elementary.
If you are as interested in this as I am, you might find this video clip captivating. This is a talk by Daniel Siegel on “Neuroscience of Buddhist Contemplative Practices”. Enjoy.