Can't recommend it enough. It's frustrating at first, the mind will just not stop wandering to worries every 10 seconds, but almost always on cue, the guided meditation would remind me "is you're mind wandering? no big deal, bring your focus back to your breath."
Here's where I recommend starting - http://www.nytimes.com/well/guides/how-to-meditate
There are a few moments now where my mind will go entirely blank, and it's the most relaxing feeling in the world. I still get too excited when that happens to keep it sustained, but I can sense it starting to work.
It's really helpful to check in for a few minutes throughout the day as well. Take something in visually, observe a feeling, listen to what your body is telling you.
Sounds hippy-dippy, sure, and I'm not pretending to be a doctor or make medical recommendations, but for me, It Just Works (TM)
Remember, it's not essential to do no-thinking. Many types of advanced meditation are actually used for focused thinking, such as walking meditation. Just remember that "clinging" is our nature, to the core. Non-clinging is key. Let the thought come, then go as needed. Give it no CPU when it comes and then watch where it goes.
What is the difference between meditation and concentration?
> mind will just not stop wandering to worries every 10 seconds
Can't you just watch a movie( or something similar) to the same effect?
My experience with depression, no. Instead of movies, I played video games. To great effect, my mind was off the things that were bothering me. But it was merely delaying the inevitable, and the wasting of time only added to my stress as I tried to catch up on work (or school work) or lost sleep.
Meditation is (in many of these discussions) about mindfulness, not distracting yourself. You become aware of your feelings, thoughts, situation. Distracting yourself (by sex, alcohol, movies, games, etc.) is the opposite of this mindfulness and often works to set you back far more than the temporary reprieve you achieved from your primary condition.
2. If you're watching the movie whilst being aware that you're watching it (watching yourself watching the movie), that is meditation. Otherwise, you're simply distracted from your basic awareness.
Is meditation just a shortcut to the flow state?
I'm also suspicious of guided meditations; I listen to audio books, how is a guided meditation different? Is a movie provably different?
I'm not dissing meditation; I do a breathe focused meditation nearly daily and I occasionally do guided meditations (I'll try these tonight), but there's a large number of practices that loosely fall into the category of meditation and also a large number of possibly worthwhile activities that are booted out. Most people (including me) never seem to question the why of this separation.
10 minutes is more than enough to start with. After doing it for awhile, you'll find yourself wanting to increase that time, but just do it gradually.. maybe work yourself up to 20 minutes, but if you ever feel like you don't have the time, just make sure you're doing at least 10 minutes.
People are like radios and broadcast their thoughts, and you'll be picking them up without knowing it. You'll also be able to project them i.e influence people. Those powers known as 'siddhis' are just a fraction of what you can attain.
Much like everything western though guided meditation is a horribly bastardised version of the real thing, if you're interested look into Raja Yoga when you're ready.
This is the definitive course guide, the first lesson can take a year, 10 years, or a lifetime, don't go past the first lesson till you're ready. You'll know when you are.
Apart from calmness and concentration, a significant benefit provided by such practices is emotion control, meaning you can choose the emotion you want to experience. Not only stimulus and reaction decouple, but you conciously produce stimulus, and choose reactions to foreign stimuli. This concept of real choice is hard to imagine for those who haven't experienced it.
you say "these beliefs are not scientifically proven, which is important for me". What constitutes scientific proof? what do you suppose ought to be proved, that isn't proved? You already admit that there are very real benefits.
A followup question for you: if you meditate regularly now, what do you meditate on? Mindfulness based stress reduction? That's like dipping your toes into an ocean.
> People are like radios and broadcast their thoughts, and you'll be picking them up without knowing it.
I interpreted that sentence as stating that people absorb thoughts and ideas via communication with other people expressing their views. The process of adopting an idea can often be a subconscious one. On more than one occasion, I’ve had friends impart to me some useful piece of knowledge, an interesting piece of trivia or some observation about the world, only for me to point out to them that it was me that shared those thoughts with them in the first place.
It’s useful to understand the source of my thoughts but for my own part, if my memory works at all, it’s doing well to retain thoughts, knowledge or ideas. I’m doing very well if I can also remember the source of the thought. My interpretation of the quoted sentence was that meditation would help one achieve that awareness.
> Siddhis are spiritual, paranormal, supernatural, or otherwise magical powers, abilities, and attainments that are the products of spiritual advancement through sādhanās such as meditation and yoga.
Incidentally, these are some siddhis mentioned in that article:
* Reducing one's body to the size of an atom
* Expanding one's body to an infinitely large size
* Becoming infinitely heavy
* Becoming almost weightless
* Hhaving unrestricted access to all places
* Realizing whatever one desires
* Possessing absolute lordship
* The power to subjugate all
* Knowing the past, present and future
* Tolerance of heat, cold and other dualities
* Knowing the minds of others and so on
* Checking the influence of fire, sun, water, poison, and so on
* Remaining unconquered by others
As others have suggested, this is hyperbole, verging on proselytising. Whilst there is rigorous scientific evidence for the therapeutic benefits of mindfulness, "blank minds" and other exotic states are anecdotes from those heavily invested in particular religious systems. I have no reason to disbelieve the less fantastical claims such as a blank mind, but I see absolutely no evidence to suggest that they are an inevitable and universal climax of those who practice for long periods.
But it turns out that even though this can be really peaceful, it is not as useful as keeping your mind just at the threshold of the blankness, with just enough thoughts and sensations left.
Why? Because you can use this state to investigate the workings of the mind, and to start to see how sensations cause thoughts, which can cause further thoughts and on and on etc. 
Meditation in many Buddhist traditions is to be used as a tool of investigation. It makes the mind just calm enough to enable you to study it. It is a form of introspective psychology.
An analogy from fluid dynamics: It can be almost impossible to predict the behaviour of a turbulent fluid, in fact this is one of the few remaining unsolved problems of classical mechanics. But we do have laws for laminar flows.
In the same way, calming the mind just enough, can be a great way to learn more about its workings. And having experiential insight into how your mind works, not book knowledge, literally can change your life. I know it has changed mine.
 The four 'Jhanas' (http://www.imsb.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/FourJhanas.pd...)
 Access concentration.
 Dependent co-arising. (Great analogy on that here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/resona...)
Siddhis and the rest of it I believe as much as I believe in God (not at all).
Instead, running the world are people who I suspect aren't much into meditation.
I believe he said that if yogis could really project their thoughts, it would be a super-power which would enable them to run the world.
The conclusion is that since they do not run the world, they likely do not possess such super-powers.
Assuming they have such superpowers, they also need the desire to run the world. Hence, this way of concluding that they do not possess such powers does not seem right.
I agree that it is possible that they have the mental projection superpower and no desire to run the world. That would make sense, at least from my cursory knowledge of yogis :).
However, their philosophy has a central tenet of minimizing suffering. Wouldn't they use their superpower to eliminate suffering to any extent possible?
And a counter-point to that is, what if they do have the superpower, and they do use it, and that is why there is less suffering in the world than there otherwise would be.
It looks like what we need is a double-blind study.
> People are like radios and broadcast their thoughts, and you'll be picking them up without knowing it. You'll also be able to project them i.e influence people. Those powers known as 'siddhis' are just a fraction of what you can attain.
...now you make it sound like NLP.
NLP literature sometimes makes claims that aren't robustly supported, but it's not really that exotic of an idea.
Take a look at the Amazon reviews, and ask yourself if you've ever seen anything so highly rated: https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Illuminated-Meditation-Integrati...
I hope you find it as valuable as I did :)
EDIT: I tried to use Amazon.nl (they do have a kindle store, just not regular Amazon), they have the kindle version of the book but when I log in after buying it I'm told it's not available in my country
This is not a trivial issue for meditation, really strange that they get it wrong. They should be saying, "feel your belly rise on an in breath . . . " and there should also be some instruction on proper method of breathing, since many people are unaware of the difference.
"Relaxed breathing. This technique involves deep, even-paced breathing using the diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs. The purpose is to slow your breathing, take in more oxygen, and reduce the use of shoulder, neck and upper chest muscles while breathing so that you breathe more efficiently."
I would challenge someone to find any (good) resource on meditation that recommends chest breathing. I'm sure there are resources out there that recommend chest breathing for meditation, but they are either (1) uninformed or simply not carefully edited, as in website we're discussing in this thread, or (2) it's something way different from the normal, garden variety, meditation that beginners should be doing (which website in our discussion is not).
Again, this is not a trivial thing, and you can easily check good sources on breathing (e.g., for meditation, singing, running) that will describe how belly breathing works. Chest breathing is actually not proper breathing in any circumstance; it doesn't use the diaphragm (the muscle designed for breathing purposes); it creates tension and doesn't allow breathing in as much air as belly-breathing; it's something we develop in our too-fast, too-stressful, too-nervous society.
These are just two top results that turned up in search for 'chest breathing' and meditation, you could find many, many more:
As a related note, breathing is of paramount importance in singing, which like meditation requires proper relaxation and deep breathing. Learning to how to belly breathe and get rid of bad habit of chest-breathing is one of the first things you'll learn from any singing instructor.
The idea of meditation is to just rest the mind on the breath. To let the body do what it does normally and focus on the inhaling and exhaling as a way to clear your mind of other thoughts.
"Although there is a certain logic to breathing with the chest muscles—that is where the lungs are, after all—it is not helpful to use these muscles as the primary tool for everyday breathing. Breathing primarily with the chest muscles makes breathing too labored. The effect is to arouse the sympathetic nervous system and to maintain levels of tension that sap energy and dramatically increase your susceptibility to emotional disturbances. Overusing the chest muscles for breathing is a subtle but major cause of physical and emotional distress."
Example of a general resource:
As a real world example, you may be able to notice in yourself how when you become nervous or scared your body becomes tense and you tend to chest breathe. Focussing on belly breathing in a case like this can actually calm your emotions as well as your body, dissipate the fear or nervousness, help you gain control over your fear.
> neglects using diaphragm, which is the primary muscle for breathing
Which are bad because...? These two have nothing to do with whether it's a relaxed activity or not, by the way.
> it creates tension in chest, neck, and shoulders
> singing resources (singing well -- and also playing any woodwind or brass instrument -- requires natural relaxed breathing)
Singing or playing a wind instrument are not relaxed activities. In both cases the breathing muscles are being used to force air through a resonator to produce sound. Search images of trumpetists or classical singers and tell me that's how a relaxed person looks like to you.
> As a real world example, you may be able to notice in yourself how when you become nervous or scared your body becomes tense and you tend to chest breathe. Focussing on belly breathing in a case like this can actually calm your emotions as well as your body, dissipate the fear or nervousness, help you gain control over your fear.
If you have time to think about your breathing then whatever is scaring you can't be so bad.
Focusing on a specific thing, no matter what it is, will distract you long enough to calm you down a bit. Haven't you heard that thing about counting to ten when you get angry? Same thing.
Look, I'm not arguing that using the diaphragm is not the most efficient in terms of energy expended / volume of air exchanged. I'm a trained athlete, so if I didn't know this I would just pass out within seconds when I work out. I'm saying that once you're exchanging sufficient air to cover the aerobic budget of whatever it is you're doing, exchanging more will accomplish nothing. If breathing with your chest is enough to cover it, for example, while sitting (as it clearly is, as no one has ever suffocated from doing it), then for breathing with the diaphragm to be more efficient it has to expend less energy per inhalation. So far you have done nothing to show that this is the case.
Seriously, most of what you say is flat out wrong. But there's nothing I can say that will change your mind. If you have any interest in finding out more I would encourage you to check out the acknowledged experts on meditation, singing, woodwind-playing, etc. They'll confirm what I've said. If at that point you still want to dispute what the experts say, what the most experienced people tell you, that's something that, for me, would make me start turn inward and question my own instincts/thoughts/motivation.
You can do this initial few times, but after that, you don't need any voice but your own in your head. That is if you are really doing meditation, if you want to pretend... then headspace yourself.
Again, this is my view as someone who actually meditated for like 20+ yrs.
You can do this initial few times, but after that, you don't need any help but your own sense of balance in your head. That is if you are really riding a bike, if you want to pretend... then continue using training wheels yourself.
Again, this is my view as someone who actually rode a bike for like 20+ yrs.
Comes off a bit snarky, doesn't it?
I think I see what you are trying to convey, and wrote the above so that others could get a feel as well, using a more tangible analogy.
Oh, and I did rode my bike for more then 20+ years. I can prop it on back wheel and do few stunts even today. Impresses my kids.
But on meditation front, I did accomplish quite a lot, during waking hours when you measure my brainwaves, alpha is pronounced like it is with people when they are relaxing.
And since English is my second language, I am not sarcastic.
And here is a fine essay on Lectio Divina, written sometime in the early 2000s:
It basically revolves around an hour of meditation, but switches from mantra, to open awareness, to feeling negative emotions in 10 minute intervals. I'm probably not going to say this correctly, but I believe the intent is to get beyond just the ability to feel calm but have a better awareness of things (how we interact in the world, our emotions, how much it really matters, etc.) in our lives. There's also a multi-part podcast interview of him (which led to the app) starting at http://futurethinkers.org/enlightenment-vinay-gupta/
Decreased stress and anxiety
Increased mindfulness (the ability to be aware of what's occurring at any given moment, but being able to choose how to act, as opposed to just reacting)"
Are those three benefits purely anecdotal?
Here are some cursory studies addressing your three questions. They are easy to find on Google Scholar.
Decreased stress and anxiety
Increased Focus (specifically for people on the ADHD spectrum)
I have to imagine mindfulness is a difficult concept to disentangle from meditation itself, however there do seem to be attempts to create measures for this:
Here's a meta-analysis summarizing many studies about the effects of meditation. Effect sizes seem consistently positive albeit on the smaller side:
Second, As Salvador Dali said: don't be afraid of perfection, you will never reach it. Blank minds is a good but also a very hard and advanced concept beginner meditators will most likely not reach. It is very hard for the uninitiated person (by previous karma or other spiritual training) who is used to focus attention on outward to be able to go inward, let along still the mind. The best way is to distract your mind from 'uncomfortable' nothingness with count while you are doing breathing and visualization.
But it's hard for me to get past the feeling that it's a waste of time. As someone who is on public transit for two hours a day, and an owner of a nice pair of noise cancelling headphones - I wonder if I could make use of that time by doing this. Guess I'll give it a try.
At a basic level, meditation is literally practicing letting shit go. This is useful, for instance, when people write bad code that really - you get the idea.
Note: Definitely do NOT try to "squash" thoughts. Let them show up and float on away. This is not a goal oriented activity; you don't have to maintain an empty mind for two minutes, let alone two hours of transit. You'll notice more of what to do as you do it more, if that makes sense.
Learning how to "empty your mind" or more accurately to simply be a thought-spectator while avoiding getting swept away by thoughts as they flow through your mind may seem like "doing nothing". But imagine how useful it is to have those skills when you're trying to concentrate on something else? If you can avoid being swept away by random thoughts when you have nothing else to hold your attention, think you'll be better at concentration when you do have something? And that's just the tiniest benefit.
the purpose of meditation is to develop an awareness of the processes of your mind. doing so requires you to temporarily suspend your grasping consciousness. for a little while, you will have absolutely no goals and objectives. when you observe your mind under those conditions you will see your self in a new light.
I don’t think that the cause of this is completely understood, but CO2 is a potent vasodilator. I’ve seen hatha yoga (physical yoga) practioners ditch hatha for prana-yoga (breath yoga) because they said it's a more powerful way to get to wherever yoga takes you.
While I can't speak for other traditions that feature meditation, at least in Theravada Buddhism, training of the breath is an essential part of the practice for the development of mindfulness (sati), beyond "observing the breath as it is." This gets de-emphasized in the modern vipassana movement focusing on "bare attention", but canonical interpretations of the Anapanasati Sutta  on the mindfulness of breathing to indicate that one only uses bare attention to "discern" long and short breaths, but "trains" oneself to become aware of the whole body, to calm bodily fabrication, and the rest of the items on the list. This is taken to mean that one can use right effort to breath in ways that are conducive to being aware of the whole body or ways of breathing that calm bodily fabrication, etc. So, while definitely not as gross as counting fixed durations like on the site linked, exerting oneself to influence the breath has a place in at least one very prominent non-yogic tradition.
 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html (perhaps the second most important sutta related to meditation in the Pali Canon, next to the Maha-satipatthana Sutta )
Anyway, I decided to make a wide survey of meditation resources from old religious texts to modern neuroscience inspired teaching, to a number of things in between.
The first source that really made things click for me was watching some of the youtube videos from Ajahn Brahm. He's English, but trained as a monk in Thailand for many years, and has a background in physics. I think it's a combination that makes him pretty well-suited to explaining these concepts to techy Westerners. He's also got a light, humorous style to his lecturing, so it's easy to watch (if a bit cringeworthy [due to corniness] at times. And you'll get an occasionally bit of religiosity [he is a monk after all], but he mostly keeps it out.) I'd recommend this one for starters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEw2mHpVv9A
I also found bits of Jon Kabat-Zinn's "Full Catastrophe Living" to be very helpful in the early stages (it focuses on another form of meditation called 'body scan' which has some unique benefits, and can be easier for beginners. It's often the choice of style when teaching for therapeutic purposes).
Edit: I'll also add the way I see meditation instruction fitting into the practice: there aren't that many concepts, but each has extraordinary depth, so you just have to keep revisiting regularly; you'll often find that if you've improved in your practice, you can go back and see the same old lecture and interpret it totally differently, even though it made a kind of sense the first time. You'd think you wouldn't need to be told, e.g., "just allow your thoughts to arise and disappear on their own" like a hundred times, in different ways—but you probably do :)
Are there thoughts I -should- be thinking, patterns I -should- be training or ideas I -should- be following to maximise the positive changes meditation has the potential to bring?
When we practice mindfulness we practice listening, seeing, and feeling our thoughts. The whole point is to strengthen the awareness of our mind. Allowing us to notice changes to our inner world as we notice changes to our outer one.
The way we practice this is by focusing on our breath, and noticing when our mind wanders. I first thougt the important part of meditation was the focusing. It wasn't. It was the noticing. That's what we're training when we meditate. And that's the part that we're rewiring.
First off, understand that the way skills of the mind work are like any other skills. The more you practice, the better you will become at them, and the more conscious control you will have over them. Think about something like throwing a baseball. It takes a lot of practice to get good at it, but eventually you do get better. And then you set up "hooks" from your conscious mind (certain triggers in the way you hold the ball and stand, etc.) that bridge the connection to the unconscious hand/eye coordination parts of your mind. Something similar can happen with purely mental things as well. You can use classic training techniques (stimulus/response etc.) to train just about anything you want, though in practice it's been discovered that a few specific kinds of skills are more important than others.
Think of it this way. Do you have any activities you do to relax? Do you have any comfort foods? Do you have a favorite shirt or piece of clothing that boosts your confidence? Do you have any phobias or fears? Do you have any pet-peeves (like bad drivers on the road)? All of those things are actually learned behaviors. But all of them are based on external, physical triggers. Maybe your response to eating your comfort food was built up over years of being raised in a loving household and a particular food item reminds you of that. And then eating that comfort food later also reinforces its place as a comfort food because you will have previously used it for comforting and found it to work. Have you ever watched a storyline on television or in the movies where someone has been given something like a drug or a lucky talisman or something and gone on to be successful and confident with some activity only to discover that they were tricked by their friend who gave them the thing and in actuality it was a placebo, and the confidence/talent was in themselves all along? Meditation is the same way. Imagine having a lucky shirt that makes you feel more confident when you wear it. But then imagine spending a lot of time practicing pretending you're wearing the lucky shirt whenever you want to, giving you the ability to have that "lucky shirt" feeling whenever you want to. Think about all of the other ways people try to influence their own mental state through external behaviors (going on walks or drives, taking a bath, taking a vacation to get out of a rut, listening to music, etc.) and imagine if you could go into the brain and, say, "going on a long drive in the country" with just a lever that you had control of. Everyone already engages in these sorts of behaviors to change their own mental state, they just start with external methods of triggering those changes.
So that's one aspect of it, but it's hardly all of it. Brains are complicated machinery, and mastering them is equally complicated, and subtle. Another major aspect is mindfulness and "being mode". It's very easy for humans to get stuck in "doing mode", so much so that people tend to think of it as synonymous with existence. Doing mode is how your brain gets shit done, and it can be very effective. It has to be, because it was evolved in an era when not being able to complete objectives could translate to death from a million different potential sources. Doing mode is like a PID controller, it's constantly examining the separation between the desired state and the actual state, and driving towards lessening the gap in every way possible. It's great if you're trying to escape a leopard or avoid starvation, but it has some negative consequences in our modern world where the things that your brain might think about wanting to get done are not exactly easy to get accomplished within a few minutes. Indeed, the brain's "doing mode" mechanisms are the source of a lot of unnecessary rumination and negative self-talk which cause or greatly enhance a lot of unhelpful mental problems like depression and anxiety. Moreover, doing mode has tunnel vision. It is a furious optimizer and will constrain your experience of the world down to the essentials for getting something done. If you've ever done something on "autopilot", had to re-read a section of a book several times, or done something like scarfed down a meal while multi-tasking with something else, you know what this is about.
Unfortunately, these traits cause doing mode to often burden us with anxieties, depression, and a diminished level of perception of the world. The most direct cure for the excesses of doing mode is to learn "being mode" or mindfulness. In being mode you learn that thoughts are just thoughts, they aren't "you" intrinsically nor are they inescapable. You learn to reconnect with your senses and your experiences as they happen. This can have a profound impact on life because being able to acknowledge a thought in your head, say to yourself "this is a thought, but it's just a thought, I can think it or not, but it's not necessarily me, nor is it inescapable" can rob a stream of negative self-talk (in anxiety or depression) of its power. And experiencing the world mindfully in the moment is almost inevitably a way to improve your happiness. This is very much a "stop to smell the roses" sort of thing, but in a "you're already smelling the roses, just connect with that experience and actually allow yourself to experience smelling them" sort of way.
A lot of mindfulness is based on acceptance and compassion, which are cornerstones to how the whole system works. It's not about forcing yourself to "get better" at some skill. It's about putting out feelers to connect with your experiences, finding what's there, carefully and compassionately acknowledging what's there, and moving on. You don't have to force yourself to do or think anything special, but by engaging in practices regularly you'll often see changes regardless. Accepting is about accepting the good and the bad, experiencing it, and being sufficiently mindful to let it pass through you rather than control you. Often these practices have a strong positive impact on people, but the irony is that if you try to force that sort of control right out of the gate you'll often fail.
It can be unbelievably powerful though. I've had times of having very serious negative thoughts that might push me into a bad mood spiral come bubbling up and experienced moments where I simply acknowledged the thoughts as just thoughts and then watched (mentally) from the sidelines as those thoughts were robbed of all power and just dissipated instead of drowning me in sadness. I almost cried experiencing that for the first time.
So much of mindfulness and meditation is about shifting your perspective with respect to your body, your mind, your self, your feelings, and the world. Through practice you build up skills in taking more control over your mind, because in a lot of ways those skills have to be built up subtly, without necessarily directly aiming for them. One of the big ones is just basic breathing meditation where you sit, concentrate on your breathing and basically watch as your thoughts go by. Is the point to have no thoughts? No. Is the point to have only very specific thoughts? Not really? Is the point to beat yourself up if your mind wanders? Quite the opposite. But the thing is, if you sit and just do that on a regular basis you're going to get better at watching thoughts go by in your mind, and ironically you'll end up having more control over that process. Think of what happens when you're trying to concentrate on a task? You get distracted by other thoughts and stimuli (also thoughts). Imagine if you'd spent a lot of time practicing just watching thoughts pass by without letting them hook you and take you away. Think you'd be better at concentrating?
If you want to try meditation / mindfulness with minimal effort just set aside a few minutes every once in a while and spend some time where the only thing you're consciously doing is breathing and being a spectator for your own thoughts, watching them go by, discovering when you've become distracted by one and simply acknowledging the inevitability of that happening before returning to your brief period of thought-watching.
The end result isn't turning into a Jedi or a Wizard or developing a special power. It's being able to connect with yourself, increase compassion and understanding of yourself, and to be able to be in the moment and present in your own life, experiencing it with fullness and richness (the good and the bad) without being shunted off to autopilot all the time, and being able to not be subject to the whims of your own self-criticality.
2) soon you might have euphoric experiences. Go past them
3) learn what enlightenment is. Head towards it
4) find other like-minded people to meditate with (at a Zen center, for example)
- Thoughts do not have a grip over how I act as often.
- probably related, lower likelihood of compulsively doing things.
- Feeling more collected and relaxed in traffic and 'stressful situations.'
- More likely to be able to pay attention to who I am talking with, what I am doing, etc, right now instead of thinking of things besides that.
- Start of realization that who I am is not the internal dialog and procession of thoughts. This one is hard to explain. I think I am certain things due to my thoughts; that's just my thoughts though.
- Noticing that thinking constantly about things using language puts reality into categories that are essentially made up.
Anyway, your experience may be different. I highly suggest trying it.
This one for me is huge. You are not your thoughts. Took a really long time to understand.. it's almost like I am two people, the one who is thinking and the one who observes the thinking. Helps me distance my emotions and reflect on them in a more rational way (not obsess over mistakes, or worry too much about the future).
Buddhists believe that the mind is another sense, just like sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The only difference is that it's a sense that devoted to looking inward instead of outward. And during meditation you can really start to see it as such. In the same way that you can let your eyes glaze over and see without processing the images or tune out what you're hearing, you can think without paying attention to your thoughts. It's can be trippy to experience, especially when you have the related revelations that pain or other discomfort is, similarly, just a thought that you can likewise ignore.
This is a revelation of even higher magnitude for me.
Especially if you are multilingual, you notice how many of your ideas about the world are shaped (or at least influenced) by the language you use, which might be helpfull to some, and limiting to others. I think this is what Wittgenstein wanted to express in his famous quote: "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world"
The one who observes the thinking arises in relation to what is thought ("the one who is thinking"--in your words).
This means that as the thought changes from one to the next, the one who observes the thinking also changes.
The thought and it's observation arise together, and pass away together. This is followed by the arising of another (different) thought and corresponding observation of that thought.
Prior to perceiving this inconstancy of observation/consciousness whatever consciousness that arises is identified as I, mine, that I'm within it, or that it's within me.
When perceiving inconstancy of consciousness, whatever change of consciousness that arises is understood as just another change and is not identified with as me/mine/etc.
* mental clarity when unnecessary thoughts go away an only the one you need remains
* problem solving - look at a problem and solution just pops up
* stronger mind, doesn't get tired as easily
* jump in efficiency in everything
* increased sensitivity to other people's emotions and intentions
* spiritual growth (realisation that you are not your thoughts is one example, as mentioned below)
* opening your "heart" and letting go of emotional issues
* inner peace :)
I've fallen out of practice (and am failing to keep my new year's resolution!), but I would very much like to get back in to it. The resilience it can provide almost feels like having a secret weapon.
The thing is, every one will benefit differently from it. Nobody can really tell you what it feels like, you have to experience it.
But I also studied a lot with Buddhists. I am not sure if meditation only without guidance of a teacher will have much of an effect.
- Feeling anxious, stressed, or grumpy, realizing it, taking a moment to take a breath, let my shoulders relax, and trigger myself to become calmer and more collected. Two years ago I experienced a life-altering situation involving a medical situation with a family member that involved basically non-stop stress for a full week. Every single day when I got in my car to go home I just broke down crying in a way I've never done in my entire life until then, and then every morning it felt like I had to reassemble my component parts to become a functional human again and do what needed to be done. Being able to center myself and keep my anxiety and stress in check when it was at risk of running away was hugely important not only to getting through that experience and having it strengthen me rather than destroying me but also to getting the things done that needed doing (which had a positive life-altering impact on my family member as well).
- Something as small as coming out of a grocery store and being disappointed by the rain then taking a moment to breathe and relax then walking through the rain and just accepting it without feeling annoyed or inconvenienced by it.
- Something as big as feeling a big self-critical thought bubble up in my brain, the sort of thing that could easily cause a plunge into a depressive mood for a while, acknowledging that it's just a thought and that it is neither intrinsically true nor intrinsically something I have to get caught up in, then feeling it dissipate and go away, powerless.
- Being able to recognize when I'm living life too much on autopilot then having the ability to basically reach out and turn up the volume dial on experiencing the world.
If you work on it enough you get to a state where you can reach into your toolkit and pull out various tools to deal with different experiences and situations. Being able to recognize those situations as amenable to tool use and being able to actually use those tools and watch them work can be enormously empowering and satisfying.
On the other hand I find music and background conversations especially distracting and like to listen to pink-noise or other non-varying noise sounds to make concentrating easier.
An eight week mediation course shrinks the part of the brain involved in anxiety:
From an anecdotal perspective I found taking a anti-cortisol herb (Rhodiola and Ashwaganda) gave me a comparable, but stronger, effect compared to what 30-45 minutes daily meditation gave me.
Meditation lowers cortisol:
Because the result of meditating can be less stress overall. And stress is known to "aggravate" the immune system. It might lead to better wellbeing when talking about autoimmune diseases. But they do progress slowly so other factors could also be at play here.
Unfortunately, not much is known about autoimmune diseases. There are a few theories(strong immune system, weak immune system, virus, contaminants..) but nothing conclusive yet. I try to stick to published and peer reviewed research when looking up information rather than mommy bloggers but not much is known for these diseases.
Overall, I'd say introducing meditation as a frequent practice has been a positive thing in my life. Whether or not it helps with any chronic disease.
I'm usually freaking out all the time in my mind... "Oh god oh god oh god... this and that..." I find showering is where I collect my thoughts. Think about some problem I'm trying to solve. I don't know.