I want to talk about the topic of meditation in this post. I would like to explore the connection between meditation, everyday life, and work. I will mainly focus on sharing my personal experiences.
My definition of meditation
Meditation is often associated with religious practices for many people. I, myself, am not only non-religious but even critical of religion. However, I differentiate between belief and religion. Everyone is free to believe in whatever they want, as long as it doesn't have a negative or destructive impact on the lives of others. So, I approach meditation in the most objective way possible and don't associate it with religious or spiritual matters.
For me, meditation means inner peace, which has the potential to extend into my everyday life. It is also a way of attuning my inner self to both myself and the external world. In this regard, I primarily focus on my thoughts.
There have been studies that have delved into meditation and its effects (probably more than I could find spontaneously). I must admit that I haven't read all of them thoroughly, but I find it remarkable that meditation seems to got the "attention of science" to such an extent already:
- Meditation and working memory
- Meditation in relation to resting state and interleukin-6
- Meditation in generalized anxiety disorder
- Mindfulness practice in relation to stress
- Meditation and information processing
How I got into meditation
To be honest, I can't quite remember why I first became interested in meditation as a teenager. It always intrigued me in some way. Yet when I look back, I mostly remember "failures". Perhaps it was due to having high expectations of having a near-psychedelic experience.
However, I vividly recall the beginning of 2020 when Alex Pfeffer initiated a 5 days meditation challenge. I decided to participate, and it taught me something incredibly important: taking small steps! The challenge (a rather inadequate word for it, in my opinion!) revolved around meditating for just a few minutes each day, gradually increasing the duration. The practice involved simply sitting quietly and following my breath. Nothing more! Each day, the duration grew slightly, culminating in a 5-minute meditation on the fifth day. Although it may not seem like much, it served as a fantastic catalyst. It helped establish a slight routine during those days, which is crucial for pursuing such a practice.
Since that challenge, I have meditated at least a little bit almost every day - sometimes I have sessions lasting 20 minutes or more. Even just a few minutes daily has proven to be very beneficial.
It's worth mentioning that I have been practicing Wing Chun since 2018. I see this martial art as a symbiosis with meditation.
What I hope to achieve through meditation
Ironically, it might not be very Zen to expect something concrete. That's why it's more of a hope. Nevertheless, I'll be honest and admit that I do meditate with a certain expectation in the end. Usually, this expectation (or hope) is that my thoughts will calm down and I will become clearer in my mind. However, there might be a bit of a danger in that as well! Because ideally, one should simply recognize and observe the present moment mindfully, without any expectations. This could possibly be a kind of ambivalence that exists within me.
What I hope to achieve in the long run from meditation, and what I already experience to some extent (more on that below), is to become overall more balanced and calm in my daily life and work. The challenge lies in the fact that such an experience doesn't happen immediately. Whether meditation is beneficial in this regard may only be realized after a certain period of time, not immediately during or right after meditating.
What I recommend for the meditation
As mentioned above, I recommend taking small steps for those who are interested. You can simply start by committing to meditate for just a few days, and even then, for only one minute each day. I believe that by doing this, you can already establish a solid foundation from which you can gradually increase your practice according to your needs. However, even if you only stick to one minute a day, it is still beneficial—after all, it's better than not meditating at all. The duration of meditation can always be extended whenever you feel ready.
As for the meditation technique itself, I won't provide a detailed guide here. There are plenty available on the internet already. Nevertheless, I find it to be incredibly simple and a great starting point to just focus on counting your breaths. Find a comfortable position, close your eyes, and begin counting each inhalation and exhalation. When you reach ten, start counting from one again. If thoughts arise, observe them without judgment.
As technical aids, I recommend two apps:
Medito is not just an app but a nonprofit foundation called Medito Foundation with the aim of making meditation and mindfulness accessible to everyone for free. The app they offer is not only available for free and ad-free but is even open source. I think that's fantastic, and I'm incredibly grateful to the foundation and all the staff for their efforts! However, all the meditation courses are in english, but I find them very easy to understand.
Prana Breath is an app that is free to use, but it has some features that you would need to purchase in the paid version. I remember that the free version was already very helpful, though. I also use this app regularly for specific breathing exercises. There are also free alternatives like Breathap or Breathly. However, from what I tested, you can't create your own breathing exercises on those platforms. Either way, these apps will surely be helpful for some people, so give them a try!
How meditation impacts my life
In my personal experience, meditation has a noticeable effect on me. Often, I feel more relaxed and calm immediately after meditating, but not always! What's more important to me is how it affects my perception and thinking in everyday life. From what I can recall about situations and my physical and mental reactions to them, I believe that my responses have changed since I started meditating regularly.
I feel that overall, I have become more mindful of even the simplest things in daily life. Perhaps this can also be attributed to Wing Chun, as I believe it has improved my body awareness, but meditation certainly plays a role as well. This applies to the most basic aspects of everyday life. Whether it's simply opening or closing a door, or noticing how my feet feel as I walk through the apartment. Even these seemingly mundane and taken-for-granted things can suddenly become "new" and interesting.
Another crucial point is mindset. In situations where I would have expected myself to be impulsive or emotional, I believe I am managing to stay calmer and more composed. I remember a situation during Wing Chun training. I was training with a younger Kung Fu brother who was very restless and talkative. The training task itself was difficult to accomplish under such circumstances, but I remained calm. I saw it as a new challenge to introduce my Kung Fu brother to this task in a different way and learn new things myself. Surprisingly, my training partner started to become calmer as well, and we were able to perform the exercise together more effectively. Such experiences, along with others, reinforce my perspective on life that most experiences can have something enriching about them. Perhaps it's true for all situations in life, but I'm not that Zen yet. (;
In connection with my self-employment, I also believe I can see positive effects. For example, after working long and diligently on a production, receiving very critical feedback from a client can be disheartening at first. In such moments, it is helpful to be able to remain calm and composed, which seems to be facilitated by meditation as well. I don't necessarily have to start meditating right away when difficult feedback comes in. Meditation has more of a long-term effect through regular practice, even if I don't meditate extensively every day.
Overall, I consider meditation to be very beneficial for me. It doesn't even require much time. Additionally, meditation can be found in various other moments. For example, when I have to wait somewhere, it helps pass the time and brings inner peace; it's a win-win! However, ultimately, it's not for everyone, which I can totally understand. With this post, I simply wanted to inspire. Sometimes, all you need to do is find something that fulfills you and provides you with techniques to better cope with certain things. For me, it's Wing Chun to stay physically motivated and meditation to stay calm and mentally motivated.