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Meditation 101

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE


The Dalai Lama said “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” Against this philosophical background I started to do some mindful meditation last night –it’s a personal experiment which I am doing as part of a positive psychology programme. I set my alarm for 10 minutes, not much of a commitment you would think, and then spent the next 10 minutes literally counting seconds and ruminating over how long 10 minutes is and asking myself ‘surely that must be ten minutes already and is my alarm not working? I notice the position in which I am sitting is really uncomfortable. Ten minutes felt like a lifetime. I had forgotten how hard meditation is and this is probably why I, like others, don’t do it as often as I should.

Mindfulness is a Buddhist concept which can be described as a non-judgmental moment to moment awareness which is usually practiced through meditation, which Alec Baldwin’s character in 30 Rock referred to as a waste of time, like learning French and kissing after sex!  In the past, mindful meditation might have been seen as a hobby or something for the Supreme Buddha, his Disciple monks or Bohemians in long drab robes and sandals who’ve never heard of pedicures. Yet suddenly it is as chic as Kate Middleton, respected by doctors and prescribed as a cure for physical and mental illness and is a subject taught at universities and studied by psychologists and neuroscientists alike.

If you haven’t tried mindful mediation before let me share with you the basic instructions. Requirements: Firstly, you don’t have to wear orange robes, chant Sanskrit or listen to Cat Stevens. Action: Sit comfortably (I like to sit cross legged because it just feels like the right thing to do, but it isn’t compulsory. It does help me straighten my spine however which I know is important, but you can easily sit on a chair, pillow etc. Next is to focus on your breathing, in and out, in and out. You focus your attention here because this gives you something to focus on. It is also what is happening at the moment which allows you to be present which is a big underlying theme of meditation. And then, and here lies the essence of the practice, whenever your mind wanders to a thought (and it will) you bring yourself back to your breath. And this is the game; your mind wanders, you catch it gently and you come back to your breath over and over again. The Buddhist have a wonderful analogy that pictures the mind as a waterfall and they say: The water is the torrent of thoughts and emotions: mindfulness is the space behind the waterfall.
The aim is to redirect attention away from negative thoughts and understand that we are not our thoughts. Whilst, as human beings, our innate negative thinking had evolutionary advantages (like when we were caveman and flight or fight was the only two responses required for kill-or-be-killed scenarios.), such thinking is no longer necessary (or helpful) for our modern lifestyle. Our flight and fight, negative thinking is at the root of much of our anxiety, depression and general lack of well-being today. By purposely re-directing our thoughts towards positive incidents, or by simply being aware of them and not attaching or responding to them we can correct our negative bias.  When I write about it I make it sound so easy – I wish!

Significant research on mindfulness has identified numerous benefits including; reduced rumination, stress reduction, increased focus, reduced emotional reactivity and relationship satisfaction. It has also been established that practicing mindful meditation reduces the activity in the parts of the brain associated with memory, awareness of self, compassion and the critical and negative self-talk that calls you mean and ugly names like fat and stupid. Here’s the thing, if I was to offer you a pill to swallow that could even get half of those results you would probably be on your way to Clicks right now to get an endless supply. The research is showing that as little as 15 minutes of mediation a day can have this effect – if I could only bottle it!

My first exposure to mediation was at an ashram in India. At the retreat I was expected to mediate 3 times a day: First in the morning immediately upon waking then walking meditation mid-morning and then meditation in the evening before going to bed. This is the ‘Pray’ part of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’.  I can recall vividly the sheer feeling of angst that I had before going into my first meditation, it felt almost like a panic attack. What could have been so scary about the possibility of sitting for 30 minutes thinking about nothing? Whatever it was it was enough to make me feel really uncomfortable and required a lot of positive self-talk and encouragement along the lines of ‘you can do this’ to quell the anxiety. I managed a whole week and admittedly it did get easier but it was certainly never effortless nor natural.

It must have had an effect because I left feeling refreshed and relaxed, if not completely enlightened and it was that feeling of mental freedom and physical and spiritual self-being I wanted to recapture, hence my revision session last night.  The French philosopher Descartes wrote ‘I think, therefore I am’.  This is a basic philosophical concept used to prove our very existence but I like to think that meditation frees us from our thinking and that it doesn’t define us. The fact that we aware that we are thinking suggests there is something else watching the thinking and this is a different dimension of consciousness. With meditation it will not only assure me that I am who I think I am but that if I practice long and hard I might even catch a glimpse into why and what I am.   But just for now, I’ll settle for reining in my wandering mind whilst metaphorically holding my breath.  And telling myself over and over to ‘hold that thought’.
 
STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at  HYPERLINK "http://www.hrmc.co.bw/" www.hrmc.co.bw

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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