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Try this now
If you are reading this on your phone or computer, just turn off the screen for a moment. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Within a moment, you can start to "see" or feel random thoughts just bouncing around your head, fighting for your attention. Interestingly though, you don't have to fight or suppress those thoughts to dampen them but just allow time to handle it.
Just keep breathing normally. No need to slow down your breathing. Your "monkey brain" will be trying to snatch any random thoughts that's passing by but keep your focus on breathing - that subconscious "monkey brain" of yours will get tired when it gets no attention from the conscious mind.
And just like when a thunderstorm slowly calms down and you can start to pick out the sound of individual rain drops, you will notice a decrease in these random thoughts one by one. Till you get into this sleep-like or dream-like state, where the only thought that is present is the one that you are actively thinking.
And if you are thinking, "Hey! this is meditation. I am outta here"...well, you are correct - it is meditation.
...where the only thought that is present is the one that you are actively thinking.
You see, the problem is whenever Eastern practices migrate to the West, a lot of things gets misinterpreted or becomes "exotic oriental mysticism". It's not unlike how Westerners believe that kung-fu fighters have faster-than-bullet speed and cat-like agility. The practice of meditation, unfortunately, has succumbed to the same fate.
In recent years, meditation has grown in popularity as an alternative cure for various mental health issues. From depression to axiety, meditation is prescribed as a side-note to combat the rising mental health epidemic and rightfully so. But I believe it is being prescribed in a wrong manner.
The reason for my argument is that it is very hard to quantify the practice of meditation and it is difficult to provide step-by-step instructions and dosage, if you may, for meditating. Many articles about meditation that I came across instructs the reader to "inhale slowly for 5 seconds, hold it there for 3 seconds to enrich oxygen-intake blah blah...." . Just no. This kind of instructions might help the reader in short-term but will cause greater damage in the long-run. It's like teaching a newbie at the gym to deadlift but with a wrong posture - it won't hurt the very first day but will break their back within a year.
The core idea behind meditation is simple - giving your mind some space. That is all. Just give your brain some time to recuperate from all the bombardment of information that is happening all around it. You can achieve it by closing your eyes and focus on breathing, or you can simply get fixated on the design of your carpet, or my personal favorite - just take a stroll outside with no purpose.
The core idea behind meditation is simple - giving your mind some space
Your thoughts are your thoughts, so no need to fight them. You are alive because you have been breathing correctly. So no need to put extra focus on how you breathe. Just make the thunderstorm of information in your head into the quite, relaxing sound of sprinkle.
Think of your brain as a room - you can add stuff to it but as long as you have some free time, you can organize the stuff and keep the room orderly. However, if you keep ordering stuff from Amazon at a faster rate than you can organize, the room becomes a total chaos. The same thing happens to your brain. And all these apps on your phone with zillion notifications all firing at the same time don't make the matter any better.
It's just Too Much Information.
Closing Thoughts...more thoughts?
I am glad that people are talking about mental health but I am also annoyed at how they are approaching the whole thing. Depression is a growing worry among the youth and in my opinion, anxiety is a major culprit in causing that depression. And the reason behind that anxiety? Too much information. Our brain is being wired like a lab rat hooked on cocaine. It's always on alert. It's always worried that it's missing out on information. ADHD or attention-disorder? Your subconscious mind is being exploited to train your active mind to always seek out new information. So anything that is remotely new to the sensation grabs the attention of your conscious mind now. The "monkey brain" of yours is slowly becoming the master.