To meditate or not to meditate

The buzz around meditation and the number of COVID positive cases are on the rise. Thanks to the increasing concern and awareness around mental health. Although the matter is serious, I would rather be educated on what meditation is and what isn’t, from a practitioner’s point of view.

And after years of practice, I honest feel that meditation isn’t for everyone — it’s a great choice if you do and it’s okay if you don’t. I do it for reasons different from most people — the practice helps me sleep better. And it’s a great alternative to a power nap!

That said, on several occasions, I’ve used it for an emergency — to center myself and quiet that inner chatter. But that probably might not work for you if you aren’t a practitioner already. Or it may. I don’t know.

And right this very moment I can hear you say, “but Sunil, what about better concentration, lower stress levels, and nurturing a calm persona? Meditation helps you achieve all of that, doesn’t it?” It does.

But there are great alternatives to mediation. One of which is binaural music (or brainwave entertainment). You can get specialized music that can help you focus, relax, and even sleep! I use them all the time! (I’m listening to it right now!) They’re just as great. In fact, there are times when I meditate to this type of music with my headphones on!

The point is this — meditation and binaural music are just tools and are a great addition to your lifestyle but the choices aren’t binary. It’s not a magic pill. And just like any other tool, you must understand and define the purpose you want it to serve.

Most people take up meditation to lower their stress levels or enhance their level of focus/concentration. But the average practitioner meditates for around 10 minutes, hoping that is enough to power through the remaining 23 hours and 50 minutes in the day. I’m not sure how that makes sense. Isn’t it true we become what we practice the most? And if that’s the case, wouldn’t we become what we practice in the remaining hours than those 10 minutes?

I feel that mindfulness (which includes everything that we aim for — enhanced focus, concentration, lower stress levels, and inner peace) is a practice that goes beyond those few peaceful minutes. You have to practice being focused, concentrated, all through the day so you can be peaceful and stress free. Doing that even enhances the quality of your meditation sessions, giving you the false assumption that the practice is doing wonders for you. It isn’t. It’s just that you’ve become more cognizant of your awareness, flow, and focus, which is helping you getting calmer, focused, and less stressful.

As with most things, mindfulness is a state that can be achieved if we’re deliberate about it. Meditation may help but your practice beyond those few minutes is what counts the most.

So, if you’re stressed — you’re better off journaling every day (with a focus on gratitude), taking a nap or two in the afternoon, eating better, and clocking in 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep than anything else. And yes, you may throw in a few minutes of meditation if that moves you. But know that it’s a tool, not a magic pill.

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