How To Meditate (& Why it May Help You Overcome Depression)
Meditation involves silencing our mind. It is not an intellectual activity, but an attempt to expand our consciousness and be aware of our ‘real sense of being.’ Meditation can be a practical tool for relaxation, concentration and better health; it can also be an invaluable tool to self discovery. Through meditation we develop the capacity to be content with ourselves as we are. It is a happiness not dependent on external wealth and success. If practiced correctly, meditation can be a powerful antidote to depressive thoughts.
How To Meditate
It is hard to pick up meditation from just reading an article, but I would like to share a few basic pointers about what meditation involves. No matter what form of meditation you follow, the basic shared principle is to quieten your thoughts and mind. We can sit in a chair for many hours, but, if thoughts continually pass through our mind then our meditation will be ineffective. Ultimately the aim is to have a mind free of thoughts. It is in this inner silence that we can experience a consciousness of real peace.
At first glance, people may find the concept of stopping thoughts very difficult. If you try sitting silent for a while, you will probably be inundated with thoughts. When giving meditation classes, the difficulty of controlling the thoughts is a common experience. However, if you sincerely try, you can learn to reduce the power of thoughts over yourself.
These are some tips I suggest for controlling your thoughts:
You control your thoughts not the other way around. Always remember it is you who can decide which thoughts to pursue and which to reject. Never feel a slave to your own thoughts, even if at times they seem powerful.
Patience. Don’t expect a silent mind after the first few attempts. We have been thinking all our life; to change a habit of a lifetime requires persistence and perseverance. Meditation, like any worthwhile activities requires dedicated and focused intensity.
Detachment. If you keep rejecting thoughts, what happens is that you may be aware of thoughts, but, they have much less intensity. A thought bubbles up, but, it becomes easier to detach from it. You start to see thoughts as independent and outside of yourself. This is a good sign, it shows you are developing the capacity to separate the sense of self from your mental thoughts. From this point it becomes easier to stop your thoughts completely.
Concentrate on something. It is hard to control our thoughts through the power of the mind. To achieve inner silence it is advisable to choose something to focus our attention on. This may be the use of a simple mantra; it may be concentrating on a candle or flower. Personally, I concentrate on the ‘heart center’. Try listening to your heart beat and feel your awareness leaving the mind and entering the heart. If you can consciously leave the mind, it becomes much easier to reduce the power of thoughts.
Intensity. If we are satisfied with outer life, we will feel no aspiration to meditate. Effective meditation requires an aspiration to discover inner peace and inner happiness. Meditation is not something to be done mechanically; it should be done with intensity and focus. Meditate with the feeling that this is our last day on earth.
Meditation and Depression
When we are depressed, we will notice a powerful stream of negative thoughts. Often when we become depressed, we don’t feel like meditating, everything seems lacking in hope. However, if we can meditate effectively; if we can go beyond these negative thoughts and quieten the mind, we really can have a dramatic change in our frame of mind. This ability to silence the mind is invaluable as an aid to overcome unhappiness.
However, I would caution one thing. We have to be careful, if we feel miserable or angry, we need to be even more careful that we meditate properly. If you sit down to meditate but can’t stop the thoughts endlessly going round, it is better to give up and try something else like going for a walk. The reason is that when we meditate there is tremendous intensity. If we just ‘concentrate’ on our negative thoughts we make them more powerful. Therefore, when meditating to overcome depression, it is even more important to detach from these negative thoughts. It is the ability to silence the mind and thoughts which will help the depression to clear.
I became interested in meditation when studying in my final year at University. I had enjoyed the usual student life, but, there I had an increasing sense that something was missing; nothing could really give the sense of satisfaction I was searching for. I read a few spiritual books and wanted to try meditation. I went to some meditation classes organized by the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Oxford and have been meditating as a student of Sri Chinmoy for the past 9 years.