Finding The Calm Within

February 13, 2012 at 10:50 am Leave a comment

 By Sam May, BsC, LicAc, MBAcC

Inner calm is an attractive ideal for most people these days, in the busy modern world that we now live in. So much so that the concept has begun to pervade the  advertising world, promoting a variety of products ranging from breakfast cereal to price comparison websites! At some level I think everyone ultimately understands that inner calm can only be found within ourselves, but the experience of it seems to be increasingly elusive with so much emphasis in our society on external development.

Meditation has been used for centuries in the East as a method for calming the mind, and in recent years it has started to become increasingly popular in the West. But how exactly does meditation work, and in particular how does it help us to find calm within ourselves?

One of the key principles of meditation is that it involves holding our attention on something – it is a focused mental exercise, and as such it must have a focal point. This could be something like the sensation of our breath or perhaps a peaceful emotion or insight. But in all cases the aim is to develop single-pointed concentration on whatever ‘object’ we have chosen to focus on. It is not, as is sometimes thought, a case of just letting your mind be and hoping that it will settle down on its own.

When we concentrate our attention on something peaceful, such as the sensation of our breath at the tip of our nostrils, letting go of whatever distractions arise, our mind naturally begins to be more still. There is a relative lack of movement in the mind, resulting in a calmer internal state.

In order to develop and maintain this inner calm, we need to apply some effort to catch our mind when it begins to wander and to return our attention to our object (for example, the breath). Distractions can arise frequently when we start practising meditation, often leaving us with only a few seconds of restful attention on the breath. However, as long as we keep trying to catch and retrieve our mind when it wanders, we will find that our mindfulness gradually improves, such that we are able to keep our attention placed on the breath for longer periods. Even if it feels like we have spent the whole session just reining in our mind, we will definitely feel calmer at the end from having exercised our mindfulness. Just a few moments of stillness can have a profound effect on our mind.

If you are just starting with meditation, I generally recommend that you keep your sessions fairly short, in order to emphasise the quality of your practice. 15 minutes is a good length of time for this, giving sufficient space to establish a deep stillness without being too long to result in a loss of focus.

Sam May teaches meditation for health and wellbeing at The Natural Health Clinic. He has been teaching meditation since 1994. Sam also works as an acupuncturist and a health consultant for complementary and alternative medicine.

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Entry filed under: Meditation.

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