In Praise of Meditation
I like to explain meditation as the weeding of the mind. If youve done any gardening you know it doesnt happen by itself, you need to be in there everyday actively involved in what plants are in your garden and how they are affecting all the other plants. The mind works a lot like a garden in that a few negative thoughts can spoil all the hard work youve put into growing your prized vegetables. At its most basic level, meditation is the clearing of the mind of all thoughts entirely. It is very difficult at first to do this, but a good way to try this is to sit in a comfortable position on a couch or sofa and pick an object to focus your attention on.
Many recommend an apple as a good starting point. The idea is to clear the mind of any awareness of anything other than the apple. This sounds very simple but it is extremely difficult. As soon as your mind wanders to other thoughts (which will happen within the first minute), you must immediately pull your mind back to the thought of the apple. Your ability to focus so single-mindedly will improve with time, but it requires the same effort and commitment to developing a muscle. In fact, your brain is just that, a muscle. It needs exercise like everything else. See how long you can sustain this single-minded state. Five minutes is a reasonable goal for early on, but the real benefits of meditation come with at least half an hour.
At this point you may be asking, what are the real benefits of meditation? Why am I staring at an apple? Firstly, in focusing your brain on this object you are calming the mind, and getting rid of any thoughts which may be present in your thinking at all times without you even knowing it. These are the weeds. Usually, our thoughts are colored with many biases that we are not even aware of. These thoughts affect how we go about our daily lives, the choices we make and our general attitude about the world. By focusing the mind, we cleanse ourselves of these thoughts and are able to focus only positively on what we want. This grants our life a clarity we perhaps didnt know what possible.