The Monkey Mind
Okay, so now that you know what meditation is and the true essence of meditation, the only question arises is why should you meditate (although if you are still reading this, you probably know why).
The most important reason for anyone to meditate, especially those suffering from depression, stress and anxiety, is to get better control over your mind. It won’t be easy, but it’s doable. Our mind is uncontrollable. That’s a given. It’s often acts like a crazy monkey, believes Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. He says –
“Everyone has a monkey mind. Monkey mind says do this and do that, and if we listen, it causes problems and we can become crazy. If we fight the monkey mind, it becomes the enemy, so make friends with it.”
Rinpoche adds –
“The monkey mind is always going here and there, and you cannot concentrate. Sometimes it makes us feel upset, or maybe it makes us angry, or jealous of others. You want to control your feelings, but monkey mind won’t stop talking…you cannot be happy if you just listen to the monkey mind.”
However, controlling the monkey mind might be easier than we think. In fact, the harder we try to restrain the monkey inside our head, the more difficult it will get. So what should you do? Meditate. Isn’t that obvious by now?
Scientifically proven as the happiest man alive, Rinpoche believes –
“Controlling the monkey mind is too difficult. It is too wild. What I say instead is: ‘guide the monkey mind’. Make friends with the monkey mind.”
So what we need to do is assign some tasks to the monkey mind and keep it busy, like chanting a mantra or bringing your attention to your breath. He says –
“The monkey mind likes when you give it small jobs, like ‘focus on breath. Keep giving it jobs that it’s happy doing. Once you give it jobs, the monkey mind starts to behave better, and you become the boss. Meditation is like giving it a purpose so it has no reason to wander.”
The truth is you can have much better control over your mind and emotions simply by “practicing meditation and awareness.”
Why you should meditate
Relaxation and peace is not the goal of meditation. It is only a result.
Contemporary research has found that practicing meditation on a regular basis, has several long term and short-term benefits on your body and mind.
Practitioners experience a wide range of benefits as regular meditation helps to –
- Expand your brain in thickness & volume resulting in enhanced memory, self-control, concentration etc
- Create better connection with your own self
- Increase the flow of blood to the brain for improved brain functions
- Reduce production of stress-induced hormone cortisol reducing stress and anxiety
- Calm your mind by decreasing EEG activity
- Lower heart rate and blood pressure
- Increase neuroplasticity which makes you more efficient
- Boost production of good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that control our moods
- Trigger the parasympathetic nervous system that helps to reduce stress
- Improve your immune system
- Boost the amount of grey matter in the brain which controls muscle, vision, hearing, speech, memory and emotions
- Lead to enhanced muscle relaxation and reduces muscle tension
- Drastically slows down the ageing process by boosting melatonin & DHEA
- Reduce and prevent conditions like depression
- Improve stress resilience by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system
- Increase awareness of the present moment by stimulating the prefrontal cortex
- Improve your ability to learn new skills and information
- Boost compassion and empathy
- Increase your sense of purpose & meaning
- Enhance intelligence and emotional stability through regular practice
- Makes you more energetic by requiring less sleep
However, the real benefit of meditation, as per Buddhist philosophy, is the liberation of your mind from attachments and things we can’t control. You will experience a sense of inner peace and harmony as you become more liberated.
The Basic Approaches To Meditation
When trying to understand meditation for beginners, you must gain some insight about the 2 fundamental approaches to meditation. All meditation techniques basically fall under two major camps. Irrespective of what type of meditation you prefer to practice, it will largely fall under these two approaches:
- A focused awareness meditation
- A free awareness meditation
Focused awareness meditation
When you meditate with a seed, it is referred to as focused awareness meditation. This means you focus your attention on a particular thing like a mantra or the sensation of your body (Vipassana) or even your breath.
Free awareness meditation
On the other hand, when you meditate without any seed, it is known as free awareness meditation. When following this approach, you focus your attention on your awareness itself. As this is an advanced approach, you acknowledge your thoughts and let go as you do not focus on any specific thing.
Both approaches lead to the same destination to deep concentration, inner peace, harmony, relaxation, confidence and clarity.