We all hear over and over again how meditation can help us with stress, reduce blood pressure, and so on. Westerners most often hear about TM, which is just a form of basic Buddhist meditative techniques. If all you have been practicing is this, however, then you are cheating yourself out of a greater benefit.
TM is just a small, tiny part of the entire Buddhist meditative tradition. It is basic, but very important. It’s as simple as repeating the same patterns over and over again. You can count your breaths, sheep, or repeat a word of your choosing each time you exhale.
However, if this is all you practice, then you are a cheating yourself. You are cheating yourself out of a higher understanding of yourself, and a better control over your reaction to stressful or sad situations.
Oftentimes referred to as the objectless meditation, mindfulness will help you understand how your brain functions at all times-particularly during unpleasant times. Objectless meditation, or mindfulness, is the practice of simply acknowledging whatever may be happening in your mind. These activities that you acknowledge could come in the form of thoughts, feelings, desires, fantasies, etc.. Anything. Absolutely anything that goes on in your head. As you acknowledge these activities, you learn more about yourself.
As you learn more about yourself in different situations, you become better equipped to recognize and predict how you will feel based on what is happening in your mind. Generally, Buddhists will teach you to only recognize these feelings and stop there. However, I recommend that you also make note of any causal connections that you quickly notice. This would help you understand yourself even better, and prepare you for analytical meditation (which I recommend, but more on that later.)
Let me explain how being skillful in meditation as well as mindfulness will help you not only to drastically decrease recovery time from an unpleasant situation, but also rewire your reactions. With basic meditation, you have become adept at staying focused on an object of your choosing. With mindfulness, you have become adept at understanding yourself and precursors to various emotions. Due to your increased mindfulness, you may be able to pick up on a pattern of thoughts or feelings that you know will lead to a bad state of mind. The moment you pick up on that, you “preemptively” strike by meditating on ANYTHING.
If you don’t have time for formal meditation, you simply meditate on whatever you are doing. Perhaps you’re showering, or brushing your teeth, driving to work.. etc. Doesn’t matter. As long as you are focusing on some object (whether it be literally an object, or an activity), acknowledging entering thoughts and returning to your object, you are meditating. That’s all it takes. You will be surprised to see how the few hours of getting over bad news or a bad incident of some kind can turn into just a few minutes.
When you first begin to meditate this way, you will notice that your recovery time is MUCH faster. However, this will remain mechanical for a while. What I mean by that is that you will have to stay on top of what is going on in your head, and continue to preemptively strike with meditation until your mind gets used to doing this. After some time, your mind will automatically react this way, and bad situations will not feel so bad anymore. It’s very interesting, but our minds generally store any kind of actions that result in a positive outcome rather easily, so training your mind to do this should come relatively quickly. This brings me to one final point. When you succeed at reducing your ‘recovery’ time, allow yourself to feel proud and happy. The better you feel about your success, the more impact it will have on your mind and the faster your mind will reprogram itself.
Feel free to contact me regarding any aspect of Buddhist meditation.
I’ll get back to you ASAP. Joe_taloe@yahoo.com