I learned to meditate in the most unlikely of places.
In the bathroom I shared with my older brother, I would find the most interesting reading material. It was there that I became fascinated with the human mind thanks to his Psyc 101 textbook.
For several months, he left a book on meditation. So that’s where I began my journey to master my mind and my emotions – not in a temple, a Zen garden or an ashram, but in the cold green-tiled bathroom of our basement.
I learned that I could find refuge from the anxieties of my teens and learn to tame the torrent of difficult emotions without drugs or alcohol. I learned that though I had no control over most of the circumstances of my life, I could choose how I would react to them.
I learned that real peace cannot be found lying in the sun on a faraway beach and real happiness is not a future time when everything is perfect.
Meditation is challenging to define as it encompasses differing practices among many cultures throughout history. It is used by many to manage stress and anxiety. It is used by others as a spiritual discipline to find meaning in their lives.
It can be a mental or spiritual practice in which the practitioner intentionally focuses attention on either an object, an image or an idea. In such concentration meditation, the attention may be centred on the portrait of a saint or guru, an image in one’s mind’s eye or on an idea, such as peace, happiness or light.
Alternatively, as in the case of mindfulness meditation, the focus of concentration is the authentic observations, thoughts and feelings that enter one’s awareness in the present moment. With diligent practice, mindfulness can give depth, breadth and meaning to the moments of each day, and with experience, one can live more deliberately.
So what is the value of meditation, and how is this different from our usual mental states?
After all, aren’t we already in control of our thoughts and our actions?
If you think you are, meditate a moment on that question.
The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness, in which our monkey minds jump from one thought to another, from the past to the future, and from emotion to emotion. Your usual mental state may be reactive – reacting to the urgency of the moment, unresolved sadness or anger about the past, or anxiety about the future.
When you first attempt to focus your attention on a single object, you discover how cluttered your consciousness is – with stray thoughts darting in and out of your awareness. With time and practice, you will master your attention and awareness.
You will reflect on your own thoughts yet realize that you are more than just your thoughts. You will become aware of your emotional states, master them and not be washed away with them, knowing that you are more than your emotions. You will experience the sensations, pleasure and pain of being alive yet not be overwhelmed by them for you are more than your body.
Through meditation you may find the peace and stillness that you seek, and through meditation you may discover the meaning and joy in your life.
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a physician at PrimeCare Medical. His Healthwise column appears regularly in the Vancouver Courier and his internet radio show, Positive Potential Medicine can be heard on pwrnradio.com.