What Is Meditation?
Episode #1 of the course Understanding meditation and the science behind it by Colin Pal
Welcome to the course! My name is Colin and I’m a storyteller, speaker, meditation teacher, and ex-monk turned conscious gangster. You can always learn more about me at my website.
Over the next ten days, you’re going to learn:
• what’s happening in your brain and your body when you meditate and practice mindfulness
• the practical applications of meditation and cognitive training exercises that may change the structure and function of your brain
• how to create a habit of meditation to train calmness, happiness, and focus.
Each lesson will also include an exercise or challenge to put what you’ve learned into action. Meditation is not just a concept to learn and understand, it’s a practice that requires action and commitment.
What Exactly Is Meditation?
Meditation from its eastern roots means “to cultivate” (in Sanskrit) or “to become familiar with” (in Tibetan). It’s the practice of self-observation and self-development. If you want to change or develop something (in this case, your thoughts and feelings), you have to spend time observing it in order to become familiar with it. Meditation is the act of becoming familiar with our thoughts and feelings in order to transform the quality of our experiences in relationship to ourselves and others around us.
Also, it’s a practice of cultivation. Like cultivating a garden, we can weed out thought patterns that don’t serve us to grow ones that do. We can also train skills like creating calmness when stressed, regulating difficult emotions, increasing happiness in everyday life, cultivating compassion for ourselves and others, and training focus in a distracted world. It’s cognitive training or mental fitness for the brain! There are many forms and styles of meditation, but in this course, we’re going to focus on Mindfulness Meditation.
“If you want to change something, you have to spend time observing it to become familiar with it. That’s meditation.” —Tweet this.
What Is Mindfulness, Then?
Mindfulness is commonly known as “paying attention” or “being present.” Jon Kabit-Zinn, founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), defines mindfulness as, “awareness cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” By paying attention to your thoughts and feelings in an intentional way, moment by moment, you prevent it from pulling and tossing you around. These definitions may begin to explain what mindfulness is, but asking, “What is mindfulness?” is like asking, “What is love or art?” Truly understanding it requires experience and exploration. This course will start your journey into understanding meditation and mindfulness by shining a light on the science behind it: what’s happening in our brain when we practice them.
Why Bother Learning the Science, You Ask?
Knowing what is happening in your brain and body when you meditate will allow you to practice it more intentionally. It’s similar to brushing your teeth. As a kid, you brushed your teeth because your parents told you to. Today, you no longer need to be reminded by your parents (at least, I hope that’s the case) because you understand the science and consequences of not maintaining good oral hygiene.
Challenge of the Day
Find your WHY. Take a moment to ask yourself why you meditate or want to learn to meditate. It’s important to start with identifying your WHY. Most people jump right into the HOW and WHAT when it comes to learning something new or developing a skill. But it’s understanding your WHY that gives you intention and the motivation to stay committed. Understanding meditation and its science will be easy; the hard work is committing to practicing it consistently.
Tomorrow, we’ll dive into the functions of our brain and how we can change it.
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