Learning to meditate is like cultivating an art

Beginners to meditation think of meditation as a technique. They think once they learn a technique they will be able to meditate. Meditation techniques are deceptive because they are seem so simple to start with. Simple they may be, but easy they are not. Technique is just the beginning. A whole journey of subtlety and nuances awaits.

In its simplest essence meditation is focussing on the breath. Any beginner who has tried any kind of meditation will know how hard it is to sit still in one place and simply focus on the breath. Not that it is just hard, its plain impossible. For beginners to meditation, we need to complicate the techniques; given them complicated combinations of long and short breaths so that their minds are unable to drift away.

When you dedicate some time focussing on your breath, putting up with your wayward mind and still coming back to the breath as and when you can, and doing this day after day for a month or longer you start to notice the subtle aspects of the mind. You are able to notice the actual formation of thoughts, the link between the two trains of thoughts that generally seems nonexistent, you are able to discern the link, you become aware of the top 2-3 areas of your life that typically stress you out and you become aware of how the mind cannot exist in a void. You realize the compulsiveness of the mind, how it has to generate thoughts to make its presence felt and you also realize that it is possible to quieten the mind, that the mind is actually at your beck and call; you may summon it only when you feel a need to think thoughts.

All these realizations are very subtle and one needs to be truly curious and sincere in their practice to have them. And hence meditation can be likened to an art. When you have the right attitude, the practice of meditation simply grows on you. Just like mere interest, curiosity and practice are enough to cultivate any art, so it is with meditation. You need not try extra hard for anything, with the right practice and interest, deeper and deeper realizations and states of mind dawn upon you with time. You get acquainted with subtler and subtler nuances of your mind and you start falling in love with this process.

For beginners to meditation, my advice would be to be very careful regarding their expectations. Of course, meditation will help you deal with your stress and help you relax and calm down but the practice of meditation needs to be cultivated like an art with sincerity, devotion and curiosity. It is not necessary to do it for hours and hours everyday. Set a time interval that is convenient for you; 10-20 minutes, daily is enough. But stick to it and do it regularly with interest. Be genuinely curious about your mind, about yourself, to find the ways in which your mind works, how it jumps from one chain of thought to another and what does it come up with when it has nothing to think about. You will end up falling in love with the practice!

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