Hello again. Welcome back to your journey of meditation with your guide: JMF. If you have not already done so, I would suggest taking a moment to go and read or review the first part of this series, linked here.
This time, we are going to dig a bit deeper into the practice of meditation, and specifically, the three elements that are essential to unlocking its power. These elements are: Clarity, Focus, and Equanimity. Last time, we explored the very basics: mindfulness, meditation, a simple exercise, and helpful tips. A good place to start before we dive deeper is to review what exactly meditation and mindfulness are.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be aware of our present moment, everything happening around us, the sensations, feelings, and thoughts within us, and our ability to control our reactions and not be overwhelmed by them.
What is meditation? Meditation is the practice of taking a moment to withhold judgement, and explore the curiosities of our own mind with a loving, gentle approach.
The practice of both mindfulness and meditation can be distilled down to the three core elements of clarity, focus, and equanimity. This is what meditation brings, and they are also specific talents, skills, or even mental muscles that can be learned, built up, and practiced. When you meditate, these muscles get worked on, so that as they grow stronger, they are able to help with the heavy lifting of your everyday life.
The dictionary definition is: the quality of being coherent and intelligible. Or, more applicable to us and meditation, the quality of transparency or purity. All of these definitions are important though. Meditation helps sort out the noise in our minds from our thoughts and our emotions to help us find a place of stillness from which we are able to be more present. When overwhelmed, we make rash or illogical choices, and clarity is necessary to help us see things without judgement or any perceived associations or attachments.
When practicing meditation the next time, try thinking about all the extra noise you hear in the room around you, the physical sensations you are experiencing, the emotions you have, and the thoughts that pop up, as being below you in water as you float on the surface above it. Acknowledge each distraction, send it below you under the water, and keep peacefully floating above it. Here, you know that these things exist, they are there, but you can see them clearly and you are able to rise above them in a peaceful way. This practice will grow in time, and naturally, you will be able to achieve clarity in your everyday life.
This is a tough one. Our modern lives are filled with distractions, screens, and alerts. Our attention span is abysmal and focusing on anything in general is not the easiest of tasks. Focus is really at the center of productive meditation. When practicing, you are attempting to focus on nothing at all. This sounds completely impossible, and most times, it feels like it really is. However, there may be a precedent that many of us have experienced in life before that can help us better understand and then apply focus in meditation.
Have you ever been playing a sport and you stop thinking and just react, or painting and suddenly your work seems to have done itself, or writing a paper and get into a good groove, the entire world around you disappears, and you are in an almost trance-like state? Or perhaps you know it better as being “in the zone”? That’s the focus we are attempting here. Focus in meditation is “being in the zone”. You are aware of everything around you, but you are so focused on the exact present moment that what matters is clear, and everything else floats below you while you are doing exactly what it is you need to be doing.
This is a really good one, and can be the key to a lot of success with meditation and mindfulness for many people. Equanimity is by definition a mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation. The best way to think about this in meditation terms is with a little imagination. It has been described as “your inner smoothness,” or the zen ninja inside of you. I’m sure it has happened to you, as you walk down the street and a car zips by and honks loudly and you jump and a bit of your fight or flight kicks in as it startles you? Equanimity is the muscle that you flex while meditating that can bring you an inner smoothness in life, so that situations like this, wont startle you. This is important because when our fight or flight response is too easily triggered it releases cortisol into your body – a stress hormone. Too much cortisol can be a bad thing, especially when it is completely unnecessary and there is no lion chasing you, just your cat knocking over a book from your shelf.
When practicing meditation, think of yourself as a ninja, standing in the middle of traffic, cars and trucks headed right at you, and then time slows down, as they approach you. You don’t even have to move, you can just watch them go right by you. You are a smooth, cool, relaxed ninja, and whatever is thrown at you, it just goes right on through. Now take this approach to outside and inner distractions. It all just goes right through you as you acknowledge it.
With an understanding of equanimity, focus, and clarity – you are well on your way to a better understanding and a more complete practice of meditation.
Blog researched and written by JMF Communications Associate, Lauren Maley