Many times the practice of meditation is associated with relaxation or keeping a blank mind. Often, it is also thought to be related to some religion or spiritual path such as Buddhism. However, it is increasingly used by people of all cultural, spiritual, religious background as a means of self-knowledge. That is why in the West and especially in currents of transpersonal and humanistic psychology such as Gestalt therapy, it is applied as a tool to be increase self-awareness.
Mindfulness has also facilitated access to meditation allowing it to expand and reach many people who are looking for or need to find a way to be present and in touch with themselves.
Therefore, we can agree that it is not necessary to be a Buddhist or to belong to any spiritual or religious path to meditate, and that it is not only a relaxation technique or a practice to “leave a blank mind”.
The habit of our mind is to be agitated, active, moving from one thought to another, from one sensation to another, with noise, dispersion. You may have realized that your mind is so powerful that, sometimes, you can remain “absorbed” in a thought and lose track of where you are or what you are doing.
There are many ways of meditating, some coming effectively from Buddhism and other traditions, created by masters, authors or therapists … inspired by ancient or modernized sources.
In all instances, the original sense of meditation is being able to observe the nature of the mind being present in the HERE AND NOW.
We should try to understand our mental processes and our conscience in order to get a deeper and better sense of our own mental functioning.
That is why when we meditate, the aim is not to leave a ” blank mind ” but to constantly observe the phenomena that arise without becoming attached.
Since we have long been identified with the mind, if we cannot observe it with a clean, unconditional attention, it is the mind that will dominate us.
Seeing clearly: Vipassana
The philosophy of VIPASSANA meditation, which literally means “seeing clearly”, is a way to develop a way of seeing things as they are, not as they appear or as one thinks they are.
It is the way to take distance while looking at things dispassionately, so that seeing is not influenced or stained by any kind of internal or external condition, such as emotions, systematic thinking, intellectual knowledge or personal experience (Vipassana Meditation and Gestalt. Dhiravamsa. Mandala editions).
Stop for a moment and stay silent. Sit in a comfortable position, sitting, with a straight back, shoulders relaxed. Close your eyes, breathe. Make sure you are present in the here and now.
Take some time to be silent and attentive to your breathing. Observe what happens in your mind. Become a witness for a few minutes, a spectator of what is happening … What do you observe? Perhaps, for the moment, you observe nothing, but …
How long does that “nothing” last? Immediately, the mind begins to create … You may observe visual perceptions arise in the “black” space (colors, post-images, lights …); and then, the mind keeps traveling, generating stimuli that get your attention.
Continue in the place of the “observer”, breathe, so as to be anchored. Otherwise, the temptation to “go” with these productions is high.
Developing the Observer
If you manage to remain a witness, contemplating, your capacity of discernment will increase … Perhaps body sensations now appear (some pain, cramping, tingling, temperature changes). Breathe, don’t stick to these feelings and keep watching.
Thoughts may appear now; check how they arise automatically. They resemble inner voices but without sound, in the form of words. Stay tuned, like a spectator and start to distinguish how this creation builds in your mind. You will see that, sometimes, they are reminders of something you have to do (“I have to go get bread before the store closes”) or inner reprobation of something you did (“I should have gone to that dinner with my friends”) with fantasies of the consequences (“ I will be alone or I will not understand anything when they are together again ”)…
If you can observe your “automatic chain of thoughts”, you will see that it is, almost always, a movement of the mind towards the past or the future. It’s almost like a spring mechanism, an internal structure that takes you away from the present, from the now … Breathe, keep observing, present, reinforce that inner witness as something solid … Take three deep breaths now and slowly move your fingers, open your eyes: How are you?
Vipassana meditation practice helps us to reinforce the position of the observer, making it easier for us to observe our reactions. It will help increase our ability to control our impulses, the reactivity that so often guides our way of being and of relating. Therefore, it is also a therapeutic tool, which helps us to grow, to LIVE in different way, to own ourselves since it strengthens our ability to respond to situations consciously and in presence.