Most of us experience moments of reflection, contemplation or meditation almost every day - we just call it something else.
A beautiful sunset - a never to be forgotten act of sacrificial kindness - a stunning smile from someone you love - your favourite smell - a spine-tingling sound of music, all of which are moments that take your breath away, rising up as feelings in your gut area, all of which you become conscious of in your mind - and then the thought slowly drifts away along with the feeling, as something else grabs your attention.
In order to practice any form of meditation, you will need to be able to focus your attention for short periods of time.
And this is done with something you do sub-consciously over 20,000 times a day.
Slow, gentle, conscious breathing = raised levels of oxygen to the cells and muscle tissue = a deeper form of relaxation + raised levels of serotonin, the daytime calming hormone.
You can do this anywhere without going to any meditation classes – on your bus or train – great when flying – at your desk – watching TV – when you are online – out walking on your own - the list is endless. 10 minutes or so - once or twice a day.
Just by becoming conscious of your breathing for a time - meditation made simple.
For a more formal definition of meditation see below:
“Meditation refers to a family of self regulatory practises that focus on training, attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and the development of specific capacities such as Calm, Clarity and Concentration."
Walsh & Shapiro 2006
Meditation - Classic & Contemporary Perceptions
Also in 2006, Cahn & Polich* agreed the regulation of attention is the central commonality in all Meditation.
*Meditation States and Traits
Whilst back in 1988, Daniel Goleman, bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence, wrote "the need for the Meditator to retain his or her attention is the single invariant ingredient in every meditation system".
So whilst there is no agreement on a universal definition of meditation it appears there is consensus on the state of attention or concentration as the common consequence of its practise.
There are many and varied schools or traditions of meditation that have been handed down over the centuries and whatever methodology used - the single commonality is attention.
How do we achieve focussed attention?
Well, we all know how to focus our attention on an esayy or story we are writing, or of solving a mathematical problem or of working to a deadline.
But how many of us know how to focus our attention on the contents of our minds?
We do so by the expedient of using our conscious mind to override our subconscious breathing process for short periods of time and then to practice various exercises of the brain in order to quieten the mind and to manage our thoughts. In this way, we can learn to manage our emotions and to find a perspective on our lives that can begin to eliminate sufferings of the self.