Relationship philosopher and writer Alain de Botton asserts that once we recognize addiction as a behavioral pattern beyond the traditional definition, it becomes apparent that addiction commonplace. In short, he explains, “Almost everyone is an addict – since addiction is defined as a manic reliance on something as a defense against dark thoughts.”
One of the most powerful ways to combat these addictions is meditation. Meditation is the practice of refocusing all of one’s energy and thoughts into the “now.” It is the practice of being mindful of one’s body through every breath, every sensation, and every shift of thought. With continual practice and patience, a person in a meditative state is capable of relinquishing all disruptive thoughts and distractions – elevating one’s self to a heightened state of self-awareness.
Centuries-Old Practice Goes Mainstream
While most people associate the art of meditation with Buddha, the practice has been around for as long as 5000 years, long before the Buddha existed. Archaeological depictions suggest meditation was first practiced by hunters-and-gatherers, likely as a means to calm the mind before a big hunt.
Through the centuries, the practice was passed on but wasn’t widely accepted until Buddhism adopted it as a core concept within the religion. While meditation was practiced in many sub-cultures throughout Asia, it wasn’t introduced to Western civilization until the turn of the 19th century when world travel became both possible and popular.
How to Meditate
There are dozens of methods to reach a state of optimal mindfulness, and each teaching requires a lot of learning and practice. That’s the irony of meditation: it takes a lot of work and commitment to be in the most essential and natural humanistic state. However, despite the various methods of teaching, there are a few basic guidelines that can help you get started.
Traditional Buddhist meditation encourages the student to sit in lotus pose. Some find this position puts some strain on the knees and hips, so feel free to sit Indian or butterfly style. Comfort should always be your top priority.
Try to be mindful of your breath. Proper breathing techniques have been proven to increase blood flow, decrease stress, and slow heart rate. Dr. Adam Burke, a research psychoanalyst who studies brain waves and breathing suggests inhaling to a count of four and exhaling to a count of six. Not only does this encourage proper breathing, but the act of focusing on the count and the movement of the breath helps shift the attention from distractive thoughts to how your body feels.
Many experts encourage the use of soft instrumental music. Even just the sound of the ocean or a rainforest has been proven to help calm the mind and can help relax the muscles.
Try to block out at least twenty minutes a day of uninterrupted “me time” to practice meditating. Most practitioners insist it takes at least that long to reach the level of mindfulness necessary in meditation. It may seem like a long stretch of time at first, but doing this everyday will make it easier over time. Eventually, you’ll be able to extend the sessions.
It’s important to remember that not everyone has the same experience while meditating. While some people can attain a level of complete stillness of the brain and body, others may use meditation as a tool to simply take a break from their busy schedule. The key is not to get frustrated if you feel you aren’t reaching the ultimate meditative state. As long as you are learning to hush mind chatter while gaining more body awareness and experiencing the now, you are receiving the benefits of meditation.
Meditation and Addiction
When we accept that we are all addicted to something, whether it be something seemingly innocuous like technology, food or exercise—or something far more destructive like drugs, we can begin to acknowledge that the behavioral patterns are the same.
We often do everything in our power to avoid being alone with ourselves. It’s not easy to force ourselves to listen to our inner thoughts and bodies. Meditation is the practice of peeking into the proverbial mirror and accepting that which we are seeing. Once we can sit in the presence of our true selves, we can relinquish all of the addictions that take hold of our daily lives. Ultimately, this will lead to a healthier and happier life.