This story was adapted from an article that was originally published on Danielle Van de Velde’s website.
Modern living has an incredible effect on our mentality. Constant real-time information relayed 24/7 through a multitude of channels has us skimming the surface of social and world events. The current clickbait headlines and ‘high-alert’ reporting is jizzling the senses…constantly. Social media platforms and gaming that offer instant acknowledgement and gratification have the neuroscientists confirming their addictive qualities. And the gadgets through which this constant stream is entering our systems mess with our pineal gland and natural sleeping and waking patterns.
Loaded onto this usual state of affairs is the extreme world anxiety that all of us are exposed to currently, whether through the media, the mind-blowing statistics of COVID-19, or through the necessary isolation measures we are now adhering to, to flatten the curve. And the increased screentime as we are operating our jobs, businesses, online learning and households, and resultant shifts in security, are certainly taking their toll.
Western medicine’s approach to immediate alleviation of symptomatic discomfort has us popping pills to keep going, rather than listening to our body’s cues for nourishment, rest and restoration. We are trained into seeking instant and easy results to discomfort, so as not to slow things down. We can be so caught up in the race itself, that we lose the thrill of the experience; the magic of the journey; the enjoyment of our ability and strengths.
Currently there is an intense amount of ‘isolation productivity pressure’; to emerge from COVID-19 fluent in Spanish, cooking cordon-bleu meals and having mastered a yogic headstand.
The constant pressures to survive and succeed currently have us engaged in a linear, goal-oriented mindset that creates a dissipation to the present moment and the journey and that requires quick fixes to keep up.
We have a magic pill mentality.
Ironically, this fast-paced, sensory-overloaded, materialistic focus, and its resultant impact on our health and wellbeing is what is bringing so many people to meditation and inner practice. However, the magic pill mentality is possibly the main reason why so many people’s attempts are hijacked.
I see the magic-pill-mentality under various guises in my meditation classes and private sessions and it’s the first thing that has to be addressed if the student is to adopt the natural organic art of meditation into their lives. I am often asked if it’s possible to ‘fast-track’ the mastery of meditation. I even had one very focused senior executive who engaged me for private coaching, offering me a bonus if I could achieve this for him. Coming from a corporate background myself, I totally recognised the mindset, but it did make me giggle.
I was once engaged for a private session with a mother and daughter to teach some basic meditation practices to help with the girl’s anxiety issues. Weeks later, the mum commented to me that the session ‘didn’t work’. They hadn’t meditated once since I saw them.
On occasion I see keen seekers wanting to enter the world of meditation teaching and healing. Some frequent many courses and workshops and allow little time for integration or personal practice. They’re seeking the vernacular and concepts and the ‘appearance’ of mastery. This mimicry, rather than instructing from a place of genuine knowledge, is why many don’t see their classes take off.
Motivation and mindset in meditation are just as important as practising the meditation techniques.
There’s a huge difference between determination to commit to the art and the practice, and ambition to achieve results. Determination is essential to mastering the art and to experiencing the amazing life-affirming changes it creates. Ambition is attached to perceived outcomes and usually flags either a misunderstanding of what meditation actually is, or an ulterior motivation to engaging with the practice in the first place.
There are now plenty of studies that prove the dazzling results that regular practice yields, initially on our physiology and then our experience of self and life: Brain structure and brain wave patterning alter, body-chemistry, cardio-rhythm, blood pressure and the central nervous system regain balance.
However, like any re-training in any system, it requires a daily approach. It’s a bit like training for fitness. One massive effort at the gym may feel good, but it doesn’t create lasting changes to form and fitness. Only daily exercise does.
It’s the same with meditation. At first it requires effort, a push towards establishing the practice and mastering technique, and thankfully that process is a quick one, as the system starts to recognise the movement inwards and neural pathways form to create ‘the habit’ of meditation.
A dedicated minimum of ten minutes a day will yield these shifts in a relatively short amount of time.
What I find exquisite, is that the physiological changes that regular meditation allows, all enable deeper and more profound experiences of meditation. We are designed to do it, and herein lies the perspective that works with meditation.
Meditation is engaging in a natural process within our organic physical and energetic system. It brings connection with and balance to our patterns and cycles because it creates inner space and stillness. When we dwell in this state regularly, our systems naturally reach for harmony. Meditation connects us to our vibratory energetic self and it is here that we sense broader fields of energy and information.
Forcing our way through meditation and sitting on the hunt for the elusive inner peace is a bit like playing a basketball game with all our attention on the scoreboard; it yields nothing as we miss the game.
However, when we turn our attention to the love of the game, the movement and energy, the scoreboard looks after itself.
But the deeper game of meditation is the understanding that arises of ourselves and also the ability to choose new directions and perspectives of self and life. Regular practice creates a mindful default state, a shift from reactive to responsive engagement with life. When that pause-point between the external trigger or situation and the internal reaction establishes, we respond with discernment and most importantly, choice. We have the inner space to start to recognise patterned behaviours and the underlying beliefs or perspectives that are holding these patterns in place.
Once we can see the repeated experiences and reactions and we have the inner space to respond, we can lay down our weapons of reactive attack and blame and ask ourselves authentically: What is it that I am holding that’s making me react this way?
Do I continue to hold this, or do I choose a different perspective? It always comes down to a choice. This is the ultimate blessing of our free will.
Meditation and inner practices like energetic healing are ways to navigate our inner terrain and to come to know and love that landscape. They enable us to work with our innate spiritual design. They are not the end game and they are not magic pills. They are keys to acknowledging that we are far more than what our modern world dictates and when we come into this realisation, we enter into the beauty and mystery of Self and Spirit, and it is then that we heal.
One of my favourite writers about this very thing is Bob Sharpels. In his book Meditation: Calming the Mind, he writes, in a nutshell:
"Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough. It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love."