Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Meditation is a contemplative practice through which we can connect with ourselves at a deeper level, gaining access to thoughts, emotions, and attitudes from an observer’s point of view. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditationem, which means to think over, reflect, or consider. From my perspective, there are two types of meditation, with two different goals and outcomes. One goal may be to calm ourselves down and recharge. I call this restorative meditation. Another goal is to understand ourselves more, and life in general, by doing inner work in a meditative state. I call this insightful meditation.
Whatever type of meditation you take upon, I believe the practice in itself is great for well-being. Studies have shown that practicing meditation on a regular basis can improve self-awareness, decrease stress and anxiety levels, and boost the capacity to manage difficult negative emotions. I personally have been practicing Zazen, a gentle Buddhist meditation practice in which we simply, sit, settle in, and rest in a space of compassion toward ourselves and reality. In Zazen, we don’t compete to see who can sit in the most difficult position and for the longest period of time. Our goal is to sit down and explore our inquiring process.
I say explore because the aim of practicing Zazen is not to seek or find answers but to engage in the art of questioning life and our existence. Are we living or surviving? How can we improve our daily life? What problems do we need to tackle? Zazen invites us to gently tap into our natural curiosity and face the questions that arise from within ourselves, with compassion, and gentleness. We then welcome any answers but we don’t obsess over getting them, even when a question makes you feel agitated or upset. Through Zazen, we learn to lean into a question but also stay present with it, accepting that answers may or may not come and that if they do come they may not be fully satisfying.
While in mindfulness-based practices you are encouraged to let go of your thoughts and emotions, in Zazen we acknowledge thoughts and emotions as part of our questioning process. They arise so that we pay attention to what may be bothering us, which can help us find our center again. When a thought or emotion comes, we gently ask what it is. Where did it come from? How do we choose to approach it? We don’t fight against or dismiss them. We sit upright and face them, without clinging to the need of obtaining clear or elaborated answers. Sometimes we get a lot of insights, other times we don’t.
Meditation can offer you different benefits for well-being. These include increased self-awareness, a greater focus on the present moment, reduced stress, enhanced productivity, and improved self-regulation. I find Zazen meditation very useful and adequate to my needs and goals. I hope this post makes you curious to explore other meditation styles so that you can find one that suits your nature.
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