Meditation – Learning How before learning Why

Man meditating

A guest post from Peter McFadyen on how he learnt the ‘how’ to of meditation before the ‘why’.

Our young Granddaughters have been staying with us for a week and I am always amazed by how keen they are to be involved in whatever is going on. This leads to new experiences for them and, being the little knowledge sponges that they are, the development of new skills. I was watching our eldest granddaughter happily manipulating the controls on our microwave in order to heat something up. Her little fingers were following the instructions given to her ‘push the button two times – one …. two” and happily being a part of the morning’s events.

Of course, for her the event was probably limited to – if I hit the button twice the light comes on and the cup turns around. I truly doubt at two years old that there is any understanding of the inner workings of a microwave, or even possibly that the microwave imparts heat into the object inside. For her it is simply that if I push this button, the light comes on, things move around and people are happy. Fine – it still gets the job done and the result is the same regardless of the level of understanding and belief. Of course, as our granddaughter ages she will gain a fuller understanding of microwaves and so her ability to influence the outcome and achieve specific desires will increase.

When I got back into meditation a few years back I underwent a similar learning process. I had read a few books on mindfulness, beginning with my first and favourite book “Mindfulness for life” by McKenzie and Hassed. This book appeals to the logical side of my mind and allowed me to gain a good initial understanding of what was happening behind the scenes with mindfulness and how it could apply to my life. As a result of that and further reading, I had decided that the “reading” stage of my education had progressed far enough and that the “doing” stage of my education should commence. Coincidentally at that stage two wonderful instructors in town were a holding a series of mindfulness courses and I signed up and went along.

A part of mindfulness practice is meditation and so I began to meditate for 20 minutes every morning. I had been told that it would be about two months before I noticed any real difference in my daily life but that the work was necessary and would be beneficial. Like the good student I was trying to be, and out of a genuine desire to discover this difference in my life, I commenced my daily meditation.


Rocks coloured
We all meditate differently…what works best for you?

Now we all meditate differently but for me it works as follows:
– Be awake early enough to meditate without being rushed
– Sit up in a straight-backed chair with legs together and comfortable
– Be in a place where I can feel the sun or the wind
– Be in a place where there is random noise – the more the better
I then go through series of small filtering exercises and practice not getting attached to any particular sound or even naming them. I just notice them and let them go. There is more to it of course but for now I will just focus on the basics.

Each morning I would wake up early enough to do my meditation practice, to get through whatever my other morning tasks were and to get to work at the designated hour. Days turned into a week and weeks turned into a month. I continued my practice but didn’t notice any dramatic changes, nothing really seemed all that different. And then one day I noticed that I was coming home with more energy at the end of the day and things seemed a lot less stressful during the day. Things that cropped up that would have normally caused me stress now caused me less stress and some things didn’t raise a reaction at all. Things that did occur I could generally deal with and let go or put on hold and not worry about until I could get to them.


Man meditating smoke
Do what works for you

So in the end, like my granddaughter, I had learnt how before learning why. The gift for me was both increased acceptance of life and a sense of calm I felt throughout the day, though I didn’t really understand that when I first began to meditate. The ‘why’ I learnt later in my practice, though that didn’t stop me from receiving the gifts that came from my action and dedication. This is not my usual way of learning but in this instance it certainly paid benefits.

Is there something beneficial that you are putting of doing because you don’t fully understand the why behind the how? Perhaps now is the time to give it a go and see what gifts it gives you now and what understanding it gives you a little further down the track.

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi.

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