• Adam Bowcutt

Meditating is like going to the gym for your mind

When you see or hear the word “Meditation” what springs to mind?

For me, whenever I read the word ‘meditation’ there’s an immediately insatiable urge to take a long, deep breath. And, I do it. It’s a good thing.


The power of daily meditation cannot be understated. It’s a way of developing an easily accessible super-power. With great respect to the exponential power of daily meditation and why it’s like going to the gym for your mind, today I am sharing with you three things:


1 What is meditation?

2 Why is meditation powerful?

3 How do you meditate consistently?


What is meditation?

How people describe meditation will likely vary depending on where you were born, your upbringing, and the culture you live in. I personally love meditating. It is both deeply personal and a non-negotiable daily habit like brushing my teeth. Although compared to fighting cavities, meditation is changing my life, for the better. Meditation is a vastly subjective, as well as objective, verb; a thing humans do. With a wide spectrum of lived experiences, it is both a deeply personal practice and an enlightening habit, that’s simply a matter of fact; one of the daily human essentials.

Here, I am saying that at its core meditation is a gentle form of focused attention. It’s a way we can attempt to reduce external distractions. How our environment affects us, whether you’re aware of it or not, has a massive influence on our mental wellbeing.


Like a computer, meditation is a process of managing inputs and outputs. Its ability at solving problems by mathematical number-crunching lies in the quality of what it’s fed. The characteristics of stimulus entering our ‘system’ influence what exits, or flows out of us. ‘A new study from Queen’s University in Canada suggests the average person has more than 6,000 individual thoughts every day’ [1] With this in mind, what kinds of thoughts do you think could arise if our brains are consuming let’s just say ‘unhealthy stimuli’? ‘Anxious or racing thoughts, negative self-talk, worry, and overthinking are hallmarks for people who know the challenges of dealing with mental health diagnoses like anxiety and depression.’ [2] It’s worth noting that ‘there are 3.78 billion social media users worldwide in 2021’ [3] and this number is growing. ‘It is estimated that the average amount of time spent on social media per lifetime currently stands at six years and eight months’ [4] Think about the impact of this for a moment.


Why is meditation powerful?

A reason why many people meditate is because it generates desirable outcomes. Meditation is powerful because it increases your ability to transcend external environments and internal emotions. Most importantly with daily practice meditating builds mental agility so that your mental health becomes stronger. Now, more than ever, the world needs humans with super-strong mental health.


We all know that brushing your teeth every morning yields healthy teeth and strong gums don’t we? Just ask your dentist or a parent of young children. You and I have likely been brushing our teeth morning and night without a second thought. It’s simply an ingrained and accepted habit. It’s a good thing.

Initiating a daily habit of meditating will not bring immediate benefits. Similarly, going to your local gym for the first time will certainly not result in muscle gains straight away. But, that one decisive action will definitely bring immeasurable long-term benefits if you are patient and persistent. For example, known outcomes of regularly meditating include the following:


The brain functions better with meditation.
Meditation reduces stress.
Meditation can keep us from aging.
Meditation can improve one’s attention span.
Meditation can improve your memory
Meditation can slow down, or even prevent, some neurodegenerative diseases.
Meditation can help to reduce blood pressure.
Meditation can sometimes be more effective than sleep.
Meditation can be a more effective painkiller than morphine.
Thousands of people have overcome addictions using mindful meditation.
Routine meditation can make making decisions easier. [5]

It’s important to emphasise that ‘consistent meditation is more important than lengthy meditation’[5] because committing to an initial meditation practice of one to five minutes is better than sporadic and lengthier sessions. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to add just 5 minutes of meditation to your busy schedule, is it not? A gentle suggestion is to create a recurring ‘meeting with yourself’ on your calendar to be utilised for meditating. Go on, do it right now, I’ll wait…



How do you meditate consistently?

A question that’s often asked by people new to the idea of meditation is “How do you meditate?” This is followed by a dismissive statement of “I can’t do it because I can’t empty my mind” From a perspective of non-judgement I like to firstly ask “Why do you want to meditate?” and offer an enthusiastic invitation to give it a good crack! With an authentic desire to learn and improve and a healthy commitment to persevering, I firmly believe that anyone can meditate.


It’s a fallacy that one must empty their mind for meditation. Meditating is really more about allowing your mind, along with all its 6000 fantastic thoughts each day, to transcend the seemingly constant chatter of your brain’s computing. For example, thinking about picking up the kids from school in the afternoon to what to make for dinner, not to mention that awkward conversation you had with your boss yesterday. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, our thoughts are deeply interlinked with our internal emotional wellbeing and our external physicality. The two are not mutually exclusive.


Once we begin going to the mind gym daily we are learning how to accept and release the plethora of thoughts, ideas, worries, and our growing to-do lists. We start to develop the magnificent ability to simultaneously calm our mind and body. Sounds great! But how?


There are many ways to learn how to start meditating and I’m sure you’ll find your preferred way. I’ll share with you what’s working well for me. Ok, I’ll break it down into three parts:


A Breathing
B Visualisation
C Mantra

Breathing

Start by closing your eyes. Focus purely on your breath. Slowly inhale through your nose and count 5 seconds. Exhale slowly out of your mouth for 7 seconds. Repeat 3 times until you find a rhythm, and then continue breathing steadily without counting.


Visualisation

Imagine with your mind's eye wispy clouds that are blowing gently across the sky. If a thought springs to mind do your best to attach it to one of the clouds and then release it by letting the thought leave with the clouds (This is easier said than done and with practice will become easier to do)


Mantra

Pick a mantra (a keyword repeated with your inner voice) such as “Uh-hum” Now, see if you can lightly utter this mantra in your mind at the same rhythm as your steady breathing.


Simply repeat A, B, and C in a continuous loop. Practice every day starting with 1 to 5 minutes and adjust from there depending on how long you want to commit to. Remember consistency is more important than the length of your meditation.

There you go. You’re meditating!


"One of the best things that I love about meditating is the focused time to get to know who I am. Not the role I play in life, such as a father, brother, partner, friend, or colleague. But, the real me."

The beauty of this meditation practice is that you can do it absolutely anywhere at any time (except driving, of course with your eyes shut!) Although it is doable without closing your eyes too. You can do it in bed before you go to sleep, early in the morning before you get up, or even in the shower. You can even do it at your work desk midway through your day.


If you get distracted by various sounds, feelings, or thoughts, (you will) gently come back to the mantra and whisper it quietly to yourself like the rhythmical pulse of your heartbeat.


One of the best things that I love about meditating is the focused time to get to know who I am. Not the role I play in life, such as a father, brother, partner, friend, or colleague. But, the real me. Not even ‘me’ as Adam Bowcutt, the name I was given by my parents. What I mean here is my essence. Call it what you will; soul or energy. If this isn’t making much sense right now that’s ok because it moves beyond intellectualising. It’s absolutely beautiful. You’ll see and feel it. I assure with patience and persistence you’ll get to know the real ‘you’. This is sometimes confronting for some people, although it’s totally worth it.


I firmly believe that once more people practice daily meditation, and become mentally stronger by building mental wealth, and getting to know and love themselves, the world will become I much better environment for us to thrive in individually and collectively.


Now, go ahead and take a well-deserved long, deep breath. You’ll feel great.

Thank you for your focused attention.


Adam Bowcutt Mental Health Advocate & Author


References

[1] Silvia Pittman (2020) Mental health, The Mighty

[2] Silvia Pittman (2020) Mental health, The Mighty

[3] Oberlo (2021)

[4] Milos Djordjevic (2021) Global Social Media Usage Statistic, sLetter.ly

[5] Sean Jackson, Jennifer Koebele, and Zawn Villines, Online Psychology Degree Guide

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