Improve Your Health With Modern Meditation
2 January 2019 | beando_admin
In our classes, we often say that after practising modern meditation for a while, the world begins to change for you. But it’s not actually the world that’s changing — it’s you! You have changed the way you are thinking about yourself, other people, events that are happening and the world around you. This simple shift of cognition is the primary gift of modern meditation.
We build our own worlds — badly
Most of us build lifelong mental constructs of ourselves. And we tend to build these from the outside-in; we enclose and compress ourselves, becoming our own obstacles for expansion and growth. You might call it your comfort zone. A better approach is to build from the inside-out and become your own inner architect for change. We are literally made of our thoughts. Over time, those thoughts become self-promoting habits connected to a particular emotion and feeling. Each of these thought processes are rooted in the past — or are trying to anticipate the future. This means that we are hardly ever present to our real life – instead we assume that how we think and feel is our real state of being. This misconception is where all the pain and frustration comes from.
It is thought that from your mid-30s about 95% of your day-to-day subconscious functioning in your mind-body is fixed. How you respond, work, think and feel all connect to become a closed loop programme. You have unknowingly designed an operating system that drives your mental construct. But there is that final 5% that says ‘I want to be different, I want to do things differently’. That’s the big opportunity, and that’s where real meditation begins to work because it’s designed to get underneath and break into that mental construction. With practice, you learn to get underneath or between thoughts into a different sort of mental space. In other words, we can change our programming and in doing so, the world appears to change too.
Let’s look at an example that is probably very familiar to you. Maybe something happened in the office, or somebody responded negatively to something you were doing. Your first reaction might be to defend yourself, or if you lack the confidence, you might fall into a sulk or a bad mood. You feel threatened. This puts you automatically into survival mode and maybe this negative emotion (which is now becoming imprinted in your mind) becomes a temperament. Over time, it might grow into a part of your personality. You’ll be unaware of this because it’s been built subconsciously but others are aware of it. It becomes a deep groove inside that mental construction that you seem to fall into time and time again. Like continuously poking at a loose tooth. Your mental construct is complete.
In yoga science this is called a ‘samskara’ — literally habitual thinking. This is what modern day survival mode feels like; we play over and over in our mind that one event in the office, which then builds up emotionally until our survival mode is in a constant state of activation. It’s thought that most people spend 70% of their time in survival mode. It’s exhausting!
Why does it make you feel unwell and unhealthy? Because your body doesn’t know the difference between what is happening and what your mind thinks is happening. So it will go into stress response and produce stress hormones and cortisol purely because that’s what the mind is telling it to do — regardless of any external event. This is why panic attacks happen for no apparent reason, or you’re feeling exhausted and anxious on a Sunday evening. Your mind is in a heightened state of anticipation based on your response to a past event and your body feels it. This is exactly why we often confuse what’s going on in our head with what is really going on in your life — because you can feel it, there is a visceral experience. We can think ourselves into stress and we know that too much of the wrong sort of stress will make us very unhealthy.
Change the way you respond
How you respond to events is key. If we can change the way our mind-body responds and reacts we might be able to put ourselves onto a healthier course, resulting in a more fulfilling, creative and purposeful direction…. in other words, living your real life.
It’s vital to minimise the impact of or shorten and manage our response. We can short circuit or lessen the emotional response and that’s what practising modern meditation allows us to do. Traditionally, this is called witnessing or non-attachment. It’s a key skill we learn in modern meditation, allowing you to train yourself to look at things as they really are and not what you think they are. We stay in the moment and we react and respond from that place rather than choosing to respond in a way that is principally shaped by a worst case scenario that we’ve imagined either in the past and may happen again in the future. In this place, we are operating in the real world and not from the one inside our head.
So don’t wait for disaster to strike. Don’t wait to feel unhealthy, stressed or anxious before you decide to make changes and put your inner architect to work. Decide to do it now; work from a space of inspiration and joy rather than from pain.
Our work focuses on helping people work out ways to stay in a good place rather than tackling how to get out of a bad place. If you’d like to learn more about modern meditation, take a look at our upcoming meditation events.
Our first book, Making Happy Work: A beginner’s guide to navigating the modern world with meditation is available now.