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Understanding Meditation

Updated: Jun 19, 2021

"Meditation" is only one piece of a harmonic lifestyle

The true purpose of yoga—with or without “meditation”—is to find more balance, harmony, happiness and meaning in our lives. Yoga and meditation invite us to awaken to the depth of our experience as human beings. We are much more than physical bodies and workers. We are hearts and minds in a web of relationships. We are capable of great achievements and deep understanding.

Life will never be perfect, but there are ways to direct the mind so we can suffer less, and enjoy our lives more. Often we have experiences of calm and happiness on the yoga mat. We can cultivate the same “letting go” and positive outlook in daily life, even when faced with challenges.

Meditation can be easy, pleasant, and joyful. If we approach it correctly.

Unfortunately, meditation is often taught as a nuts-and-bolts technique, in a short amount of time, without the background traditions that prepare the body and mind for meditation in the first place.

As busy adults, how do we spend most of our time? Working, multitasking, planning, making lists, scheduling, networking, running around—and if you have kids, you are doing all those things with them, too. And then there is also stress, anxiety, worry, and doubt running through our minds—even if we consider ourselves basically happy, these mind states touch all of us.

When we spend 99% of our time on work and thinking, and 1% on relaxation and simply being, why do we sit down to meditate in a short amount of time and expect ourselves to immediately drop into a state of centered-awareness and bliss? Of course we are going to feel distracted, fidgety and full of thoughts. Of course we are going to be visited by our worries when we stop keeping ourselves busy and distracted.

The struggle is real. Our habitual thoughts physically change our brains and body chemistry, setting us up for repeated struggle. Uncomfortable mental states are physical as well as mental.

If you are looking to create more harmony, balance and happiness in your life, meditation is a great tool to help with that—but meditation was never meant to be practiced by itself. Meditation is but one piece of a whole lifestyle.

The 8-fold Path of Patanjali teaches us to first take care of ourselves with movement and nutrition, before even attempting meditation. Even more importantly, spend every day cultivating attributes such as kindness, compassion, contentedness, presence and letting go. Every moment we can, throughout the day we should be “meditating on” these qualities that are already within us. This will make the mind more calm and joyful. Even if you decide not to take up a formal meditation practice, this daily groundwork will lead to a happier life as you learn to refine your joy and redirect the mind towards contentment and acceptance.

Or another way to look at it:

8 fold path update 6.19.21
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copyright Chintamani Kansas 2017

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