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Learning to Silence the Mind
Nov, 28,2012
WOBI Multimedia Production Team
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Preview: an article partly excerpted by Francisca Pouiller from the next edition of WOBI magazine, V. 17, December 2012-January 2013. Interested in subscribing to the magazine? Become a WOBI Member.

Illustrations by Javier Joaquín.

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.

Do you feel calmer? More conscious of your emotions, more in the moment, more relaxed? Can you focus on what you really want without worries intervening? Meditation isn’t easy, but it also isn’t mission impossible. It is about willingness and consistent, and to find the most accurate method for each individual. In times of uncertainty and stress, meditating can be an indispensable practice. In the following discover how to meditate from WOBI speakers who are also practitioners of the Eastern custom.

How to meditate

Have you ever heard someone say “Let me meditate on that”? It gives the impression that meditation involves deep thinking; however this is actually an incorrect use of the word. Meditating is in fact the silencing of our thoughts. So how do you “silence your thoughts”? Try sitting for a couple of minutes and not let your mind wander or think about any one topic. Not about what you have to do this afternoon or where that sweater could be you’ve been looking for all week. Not one thought. Not so easy, huh? There are many different techniques you can use to begin. Here some of our speakers who are also practiced meditators give examples of how to partake in the process:

Tal Ben-Shahar, Professor at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzilya and consultant on positive leadership, self-esteem, ethics, and happiness

“Practiced regularly, Buddhist meditation, also called ‘loving kindness’, modifies the part of the brain related to compassion, love, and consideration for others.”

Inhaling and exhaling three times, consciously and deeply, can initiate a virtuous circle of calm that dispels feelings of anxiety.

The technique Buddha called “loving kindness” is founded on the premise that we all deserve to be appreciated. To practice, first one must be connected mentally with him or herself, later with the people they appreciate, and finally with those they have negative sentiments towards. The idea is to transmit thoughts of love.

Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline and a specialist in strategy, he popularized the idea of the learning organization.

“It is sometimes called “skeleton meditation” because you breathe deeply and concentrate on each part of your body, and begin to relax. The mind also slows.”

The first step to chan or zen meditation is to pay attention to how we breathe by slowly becoming conscious of our own body and silencing each part, including the mind. The meditation skeleton is a simple way to visualize our body, going over each part. After, begin to observe thoughts and feelings, sensations in the body, and emotions, with the objective of remaining in the present moment.

“One indicator that I’m going in the right direction is when I feel as if I have almost stopped breathing. This is because I’ve entered into the zone that the Chinese call “marine respiration”, like a fetus in the mother’s womb.”

Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of the celebrated bestseller Emotional Intelligence, who specializes in creativity, social and emotional learning, and meditation.

“Posture is fundamental; you must stay still while meditating. A calm body clarifies the path towards a clear mind. Yoga positions are a good prelude, but each individual must find their own method to relax the body.”

“By just breathing you don’t focus on the natural flow of air going through the body. Concentration both relaxes each of us and strengthens concentration. This helps make each thought, sound or distraction irrelevant. I recommend you start 10-15 minutes each day. My best ideas come to me after meditating each morning. In this particular moment, my writing suddenly flows.”

Stress makes it hard for people to slow down and meditate. For many people, the second they sit down anxiety takes hold and before they begin they want to start running. For this reason we have to learn how to relax before beginning a meditation session. When our brain is stressed, emotional centers take control and force us to focus on what we’re worrying about. From the point of view of meditation, these are mere distractions.

 

Chip Conley, author, expert on emotional intelligence as related to work, and founder of the boutique hotel chain Joie de Vivre. His latest book is called Emotional Equations.

“I have a private hatha yoga professor (based on corporal postures) and I go to one Bikram yoga class a week (an intense practice done in a 105°F room to maintain body heat.)”

I complement meditation with yoga and a spiritual and psychological program called Diamond Heart. These practices seek to have calming effects on what Buddhists call “monkey mind”. What does that mean? That our minds are like monkeys: completely impatient, always jumping from one idea to the next, doing whatever they want. Through concentration and allowing emotions to flow, meditation calms the monkey and we can act in a way that is more reflective.