ELi5: What exactly is meditation?

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Like I know people sit still and quiet for a while, but what exactly are they thinking or doing?

In: 6

Meditation at its simplest form is being mindful. Focusing on the mind or breath only allowing that one thought or action to come through in your head. It is very difficult to silence your mind from other thoughts coming in about work or life meditation is practice of doing just that. People that have mastered this skill can separate there feelings and body from themselves mentally and can sit for days without breaking concentration not allowing pain or hunger to distract them it’s really quite useful in real life applications of controlling feelings and emotion as well.

For me, nothing, as much as possible.

When I meditate, I begin by visualizing my “happy place,” Nu’uanu Pali in Hawaii. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen and I was as happy there as I’ve ever been, before or since I try to see everything just the way I saw it during my first trip down to the smallest detail. I remember the sounds and how the air smelled and felt. Once that’s set in my mind, I do paired muscle relaxation and paced breathing exercises.

Once I’m totally relaxed, I focus on my breathing until my mind is clear and I’m not really thinking about anything. Thoughts sometimes come up but I shut them down and go back to focusing on my breathing.

It’s a way of making your mind go quiet and easygoing like it does juuust before you go to sleep without actually having to go to sleep afterwards

There are different types of meditation, but one of them, mindfulness meditation, is about being aware of everything that is happening in your experience in the present moment, including any thoughts you have. As soon as you recognize you are having a thought, you aim to “detach” from that thought and return your concentration to the present moment. Rather than getting “caught up” in the thought and continue to think it without realizing you’re thinking it.

Usually it’s easiest to rest your focus on one specific thing in your present experience, like the sensations of your breath. This makes it easier to catch when your focus has been broken by a thought, recognizing the thought for what it is, and then bringing focus back to the breath. Once you have more practice meditating you can rest your awareness on everything you’re perceiving simultaneously – any sounds in the room, feeling of pressure from your seat, clothes on the body, etc.

If you practice mindfulness a lot, even if you’re not currently meditating you can get good at recognizing when you’re getting carried away in a thought, and detach from it if it’s not a useful thought, e.g. anxious ruminations.