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Meditation in Modern Times

The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts … it is to stop your thoughts from controlling you!

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in various cultures and religions. It has been passed on from generation to generation and continues to be a popular practice in modern times. In today's fast-paced world, meditation has become an even more pertinent tool for reducing stress, improving focus, and promoting overall mental, physical and spiritual health.

While there are several preconceived notions around meditation, with a vast majority of non-practitioners finding it boring and uneventful, some finding it extremely difficult to sit in one place and to focus, while a few others are even fearful of the consequences of what they might encounter and come face to face with. Not just that, even the manner of practicing meditation has multiple misconceptions surrounding it – with some believing that it can only be done sitting in a certain position, with eyes shut, breathing in perfect rhythm and focusing while listening to some form of spiritual music. This stereotype around meditation has deterred large hordes of people, who could have otherwise been converted, had there been a more enticing and enjoyable/fun vibe around it.

In today’s times, people are turning to meditation as a way to manage their anxiety and stress levels. The practice of meditation helps individuals become more aware of their thoughts and emotions and develop strategies for responding to them in a healthy manner. By taking a few minutes each day to sit in silence and focus on their breath, individuals learn to let go of negative thoughts and feelings and cultivate a sense of calm and inner peace. Despite the many benefits of meditation, people find it difficult to incorporate into their busy daily routine. For this exact reason, there a multitude of options, mediums and means through which a person can now very effectively and in an almost tailor-made, customized fashion, practice meditation at his/her own convenience.

Another major myth surrounding meditation is that - it is only successful, if one achieves a complete state of tranquility, wherein the mind is completely devoid of thoughts and there is an eerie blank state. This could not have been further from the truth. Meditation is instead a journey from letting all the thousands of thoughts, fears, voices, noises in the mind be, to become more and more aware of the same, learning to distinguish between them and finally after mastering the art of helming power/control over them, determining the quality of thoughts you have. Even the experts go through this journey and after years of practice, get to the desired stage. In the words of Jay Shetty - 'a monk is simply a traveler...except his journey is inwards!'

“Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

There are many resources available to help individuals get started with meditation, including apps, online courses, and in-person classes. By taking the time to learn about meditation and develop a regular practice, individuals can reap the many benefits of this ancient practice in modern times. Experienced meditators agree that a daily meditation practice can have significant benefits for mental and physical health, but one thing they don’t agree on is the most effective types of meditation. Simply because it’s different for everyone. There are hundreds of techniques encompassing practices from different traditions, cultures, spiritual disciplines, and religions. There’s not a universally accepted “best” or “most-effective” type; rather, it is our individual preference that helps us choose the one that works best for us.

To illustrate my point – there is Guided vs. unguided meditation, Calming vs. insight meditation, Zen meditation, Mantra meditation, Transcendental meditation, Yoga meditation, Vipassana meditation, Chakra meditation, Sound bath meditation and many others. Abhyasa, or practice is of critical importance here, the type of meditation is inconsequential.

However, to take this topic a step forward, the definition and forms of meditation are becoming increasingly broad-based. Today, meditation is no longer confined to conventionally meditating based on one of the above multiple modes, looking for spiritual ascension or better mental and physical health, but meditation has instead taken the form of a way of life - to get into a ‘flow state’ and ‘getting into the zone’, to achieve the peak state of performance and thereby get the best outcomes. These activities are extremely individualistic and different for each person and even for the same person, they could differ from time to time. From painting/making art, for some, it could be cooking for others; it could be organizing the house for some, or gardening, cleaning, washing dishes for someone else. Right from listening to soothing music, to letting motions flow through the body in some or the other form of dance it is wide-ranging. This list is extremely personal and varies from person to person.

Meditation as a practice itself is not about throwing ourselves away and becoming something better, but rather, about befriending who we are already. It is like giving ourselves a hug and getting in touch with our inner reality.

For some, meditation is a way to get over the toxicity and stressful demands of their work, while for some their work itself is their natural calling and so therapeutic that it serves as their meditation. Some people cannot stand being near infants/toddlers or just kids in general, but ask those sets of grandparents who shower all their love, time and attention in exactly these munchkins and cannot do without them – rather spending time with them makes them feel younger, happier, calmer and in a few cases even reduces their pace of aging or degeneration of certain persisting conditions. They find their sense of peace and calm in them and for them this becomes their daily dose of connecting with their ownselves, voila – meditation again!

So, yeah, just like with any other major age-old phenomena that have had to transform/tweak, to stay relevant with the changing times, changing demographics and changing perceptions, preferences and lifestyles, meditation too has been galvanized in multiple ways, whether increasing the number of forms and modes it comes in now as listed above, or simply getting redefined in the true sense of the word and finding application in newer avenues. The impact however has significantly been amplified as life has become faster paced, stress levels have risen and inactivity or boredom has become a taboo.

While this blog started out as a meagre and simple attempt to help out a dear friend to deliver a speech at a workshop, it got me into thinking that indeed this age-old magic potion has transformed time and again and as time has passed, it has been handed in, generation after generation in forms that best suit the time and age we rediscover it in!

Do take a moment and give it a sincere thought (maybe by closing your eyes and thinking) about what is meditation for you? What makes you transcend into ‘the zone’, or ‘the flow state’ and brings out the best in you and once you have the answer, practice it, indulge in it and live life to its fullest potential!

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