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Meditation : the essential guide

Meditation and mindfulness practices have come out of Buddhist traditions. The basis of the practices is to understand the self and purify the mind.

Many Buddhist teachings include practices to help gain self awareness, for instance; non-attachment, non-judgement, acceptance of what is and abiding in the present moment. Seems like a simple list of attributes, however deeply ingrained within us is resistance, fear and attachment to life and for ourself.

How do you gain freedom from the mind? Awareness is key. Once you know what your recurring thoughts are, you are able to change them and therefore become free from them. Sitting in meditation doesn't seem like it would do anything. Probably because most people experience meditation as distracting, frightening, a waste of time and something to be avoided.

Sitting in meditation gives us the best opportunity to notice our thoughts, our discomforts (in the mind and the body), our resistances to doing nothing and our reactions to the sensations and thoughts we have. More often than not there will be someone in my meditation sessions who asks to sit near the door so they can leave if things get too uncomfortable for them.

What is it that people are afraid of? Thoughts? Reactions to thoughts? The inability to sit still? It is not uncommon to live in our heads, pushing down the things we don't want to think about and then disctract ourselves with anything else that doesn't involve dealing with what is going on in our heads.

Freedom comes from allowing the thoughts to be there and to look at them. Whatever we look at loses its power over us. I am guessing that most of us have put things off because we either don't like it or are not confident to do it. The task then seems bigger and a resistance to it builds within. When you face it head on and just do it, you feel liberated and proud that you managed to achieve it. Not to mention less anxious and stronger in ourself.

Through Vipassana and the Buddha's teachings I have learnt that sitting still with curiosity and purpose I started to understand myself as never before. When you train yourself to sit through discomfort and not react to it nothing happens. The reaction is tamed and the mind is still, with the knowing that everything is impermanent and will change, no matter how bad it may seem, the discomfort changes and can be observed instead of resisted.

Watching pain in this way is fascinating. When you become aware of your mind and how the body reacts to certain thoughts that you may be having - some pleasant and some unpleasant. Being attached to either will only bring more pain, as craving for one over the other will bring deep unhappiness when you do not have what you want.

The mind is amazing and powerful. We can feel happy or sad according to the thoughts we are having and believing in at the time. How can meditation change that? Through awareness. When you have awareness of yourself, your thoughts and your reactions, you can become the observer of them instead of the reactor to them.

Taking time to learn meditation free's you from the endless ups and downs of life. You not only change yourself in the process, but the world around you is also affected positively by your efforts.

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