Let's Get Real About Meditation
We've all been there.* You're at a social gathering when "Steve" enters the scene. A faint aroma of patchouli subtly announces his presence, his sandalwood beads make a soft clinking sound, and there's an uncanny sense that Steve feels like he is peering down at you from some spiritual high ground.
Steve starts reminiscing about his soul-searching journey in India, his transformative experiences at numerous meditation retreats, and doesn't shy away from dropping words like Vipassana, Metta, Anapanasati, Kundalini, and Yoga Nidra into casual conversation — seemingly very pleased with himself for being the only one who understands them.
But the thing about Steve is, he can be a bit of a smeg-head.
He'll preach endlessly about the virtues of compassion while condescending to those around him. He'll humble-brag about his egoless state while dominating the conversation.
Steve is a textbook example of spiritual posturing and jargonizing, the very things that can make the world of meditation seem alienating to many of us. Oddly, when one investigates these traditions, this is also the antithesis of their core principles. Strange that.
It's as if the simplicity and universality of these mindfulness techniques have been obscured by a smokescreen of mysticism and pretentious self-aggrandizing language.
This façade not only creates an unnecessary barrier between everyday people and incredibly valuable tools for mental wellness but also paves the way for self-appointed gurus to sell expensive retreats and courses.
If you've ever found yourself caught in the crosshairs of such spiritual grandstanding and wondered, "What's meditation really about?" this guide is for you.
So, let's get real about meditation...
Meditation: It's Simpler Than You Think
Meditation, at its heart, is about awareness. It's about plugging into the present moment and getting acquainted with the landscape of your mind. It isn't some mystical, arcane ritual—it's basic observation. It's as ordinary and universal as watching a sunset or listening to the rustle of leaves.
The methods may differ, but the foundation is straightforward: it's you engaging with the here and now. No frills, no jargon, no "Steve".
Armed with this understanding, the next time you encounter a "Steve", you'll be well-equipped to cut through the pretentiousness and meet him on the common ground of simplicity.
Below is a list of 16 frequently used meditation styles, deciphered into plain, everyday language.
Think of this as your anti-pretentious translator—an antidote to complexity and mysticism, a reminder that while these terms may sound impressive, even lofty, they're all rooted in incredibly basic concepts.
So basic, in fact, that most of us already practice them on some level. Meditation is simply about formalising these natural behaviours to enhance mindfulness and tranquillity.
1. Observing Your Thoughts
(Steve Jargon: Vipassana Meditation):
This is about quietly watching your thoughts and feelings without passing any judgments. Imagine your mind is a theatre and you're there just to watch the show, not critique it.
2. Single-Point Focus
(Steve Jargon: Samatha Meditation):
This is all about zooming in on one thing and giving it your full attention. Like focusing solely on a candle's flame or breathing and letting everything else fall into the background.
3. Imagine You're Being Nice to People
(Steve Jargon: Metta Meditation):
This involves mentally sending good wishes and positivity to other people and yourself. Think of it as mental gift-giving - only, you're not really giving anything at all, just thinking about sending love into the world.
4. Observing Your Breath
(Steve Jargon: Anapanasati):
This is about taking note of your breathing. No need to alter it in any way—just follow its natural rhythm.
5. Letting Thoughts Pass
(Steve Jargon: Zazen):
This involves letting your thoughts drift in and out of your mind, like clouds across the sky—notice them, but let them pass.
6. Empathizing with Others' Pain
(Steve Jargon: Tonglen Meditation):
Visualize yourself taking in the suffering of others and sending out comfort and relief—it's an exercise in empathy.
7. Staying in the Now
(Steve Jargon: Ch'an Meditation):
This is about being fully involved in what you're doing at the moment, without getting tangled up in thoughts of the past or the future.
8. Thoughtful Walking
(Steve Jargon: Walking Meditation):
While walking, you try to be aware of each movement you make and the sensations—it's like taking your mind for a leisurely stroll.
9. Repeating a Phrase
(Steve Jargon: Mantra Meditation):
Choose a word or phrase that resonates with you and keep repeating it—it's like humming your favourite tune, but in your mind.
10. Focusing on Your Body
(Steve Jargon: Yoga Nidra):
This involves mentally scanning your body from head to toe, checking in with how each part feels. You also focus on breathing and ways in which you'd like your life to improve—it's like giving yourself a gentle, mental massage.
11. Inner Energy Stimulation
(Steve Jargon: Kundalini Yoga):
This includes specific movements, breathwork, and chants aimed at rousing the dormant energy within you—it's like doing a spirited dance with your own energy. This one is definitely on the more esoteric side.
12. Focusing on Something
(Steve Jargon: Trataka):
Choose a point to look at and keep your gaze steady on it. This could be a candle flame, a dot on the wall, or any other object.
13. Counting Repetitions
(Steve Jargon: Japa Meditation):
Choose a word or phrase and repeat it a specific number of times, counting as you go—it's like mentally reciting your favourite quote.
Note: when you see Steve fingering his sandalwood beads, he's just counting a phrase.
14. Breath Control
(Steve Jargon: Pranayama):
This involves inhaling, holding, and exhaling your breath in specific patterns—it's like playing a gentle, rhythm-based game with your breathing.
15. Listening to Sounds
(Steve Jargon: Nada Yoga):
Pay attention to a sound or series of sounds—it's like listening to your favorite song, but it could be any sound that's around you.
16. Imagination with purpose
(Steve Jargon: Guided Imagery):
Create calming mental images or situations—it's like daydreaming, but with a purpose.
So there you have it! A range of meditation techniques that can be practiced anytime, anywhere, without the need for spiritual posturing or complex jargon.
Remember, at the end of the day, meditation isn't about grandiose claims or esoteric language. It's about simple, profound connection—with yourself, with the present moment, and with the world around you.
So the next time you meet a "Steve", smile at his anecdotes, nod at his wisdom, and remember: the real power of meditation lies not in complicated words, but in the simple, mindful practice.
Meditation: Not a Luxury, but a Necessity
While the modern world praises multitasking, your mind needs moments of mono-tasking. Moments of stillness. Moments of just being.
It's not a luxury—it's a requirement for maintaining mental and emotional health.
Like a computer that's been running for too long, your brain also needs to reboot to function smoothly. And meditation can be that reboot button.
Don’t be fooled by the fancy names or the spiritual bragging rights that people like "Steve" seek.
The beauty of meditation lies in its simplicity, not in over-complication. And anyone trying to sell it as an exclusive, highbrow practice has completely missed the point.
Jargon: A Smoke Screen for Elitism?
A big issue with the meditation community is the tendency for a minority of people to use jargon as a smokescreen for elitism. They present meditation as a complex and esoteric practice that requires expensive retreats and lengthy courses.
Remember a "Vipassana Retreat" is just a fancy term for a holiday, somewhere quiet, relaxing and spending a lot of time watching your thoughts.
In reality, meditation is an egalitarian practice. It's available to anyone, anywhere, at any time. It doesn’t require any special equipment, exclusive mantras, or a spiritual guide with an unpronounceable name.
All you need is a quiet space, a few minutes of your day, and a willingness to engage with your own mind.
The idea that meditation is an elite practice accessible only to a select few is nothing more than a marketing gimmick.
It's a way for people to inflate their own egos and wallets at the expense of others. This mentality only serves to deter people from a practice that has the potential to bring about significant positive changes in their lives.
The Way Forward: Keeping It Real
The essence of meditation is simplicity and inclusivity. So let's keep it that way.
Whether it's observing your thoughts, focusing on your breath, or sending out positive vibes—these are all simple actions that anyone can do.
They don't require a fancy Sanskrit name or a special robe. You don't need to retreat to a secluded monastery in the Himalayas (as lovely as that would be for those who can afford to do so!).
You can practice them while sitting in your living room, waiting for your morning coffee, or during your commute to work.
So the next time a "Steve" tries to blind you with spiritual jargon, remember: meditation isn't about the fancy terminology or grandiose claims—it's about the simple act of being present.
So go ahead, pick a technique from the list that resonates with you, and give it a try.
And remember, there's no wrong way to do it. It's your practice, so make it your own.
In the end, the power of meditation lies in its simplicity and accessibility. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. * If you've not met a "Steve". You might be Steve.