Research has found meditation to have positive effects on the mind and body. Meditation helps to increase emotional well-being by focusing on the present and reducing negative emotions. The practice is also very useful in managing physical conditions such as anxiety, asthma, chronic pain, high blood pressure and tension headaches. Despite the many benefits, meditation also can produce bad effects amongst seasoned meditators. Instead of reducing negative emotions, meditation can also increase negativity. Meditators can also be drawn to hallucinations and light. This causes frustration when the same experience does not manifest. Most commonly though, many people find meditation unenjoyable. How can one make meditation enjoyable?
The purpose of meditation
How can meditation be an enjoyable practise when it seems so dull? Meditation is definitely not about zoning out in the present moment just focused on the breath. Meditation on the breath can be a dull exercise. Moreover, focusing on the breath while striving to reduce stress can instead increase stress.
Although most of us meditate to get something, the purpose of meditation is to unite the mind. The purpose of meditation is to gather the mind’s attention into one, rather than scattered in many different directions.
To enjoy meditation, be giving
If you want to enjoy meditation, it is better to do it with the attitude of a giving heart. This runs counter to why many people meditate – therefore causing negative effects in the practice of meditation. You see, when you meditate to get something, you are no different from when you are chasing an objective in daily life.
We are trained to have plans and goals – otherwise, it seems like we are nobody at all. Someone who is fun, smart and exciting always have activities planned and goals to achieve. Most of us place our self-identities in what we do. With technology, we are doing more and more. Perhaps we are striving so much that globally, we are spiralling into stress and depression.
When you allow your breath to be the way it is and give in to whatever comes up instead of wanting to control, meditation may become an enjoyable practice. To give in means to allow whatever that comes without being involved. Be the curious observer rather than meditating with the thought “I am meditating now to quiet my mind.”
Think of something pleasant
There is a story about a boy who had the power of attention but did not know meditation. One day, a teacher told him to think of his favourite fruit – the plum. The teacher advised him to think of the feelings that arise when he thinks about plums. The boy easily concentrated his mind fuelled with pleasant feelings. He emerged from meditation with bliss. Meditation when done correctly, is indeed pleasant and blissful.
Don’t worry if you have no favourite fruit. You can always think of someone whom you admire in your life. Think of the qualities of this person. S/he may be very joyful and kind. How do the qualities of joy and kindness emanating from this person make you feel?
Pay attention to the feelings and everything your mind wanders, bring its attention back to the qualities you admire.
Observe instead of doing
Another mindset that runs counter to meditation is that when we are meditating, we are doing something. What if you can let go of the thought you are doing something? Instead, see the time you sit quietly to watch your breath or think of something pleasant as a time to rest and relax your mind.
We need no reason or goal to relax our bodies, so why should we need one for the mind? Just let the mind rest in the present moment. Our intellectual mind (the thinking and analysing function) is overused. It also likes to have work to do. When the intellect has nothing to do it wanders.
That is why we give the intellectual mind something to do – by observing the breath or to think of something pleasant and to feel it. After it has worked enough, you find your intellectual mind quieting down. This quiet and silence could be really enjoyable. But we have been so used to being surrounded by noise that most of us are afraid of silence.
Meditation helps to calm the mind. When meditation is supported by mindfulness, there is much joy and relaxation you can discover within yourself.