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Mental health in practice: five days of meditation
I decided to write on the topic of meditation for this blog post. While reflecting, however, I realized how little I know about meditation. As a result, I looked to outward sources to begin learning, focusing my attention mainly on the book ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael A. Singer. Here are my musings as I reflected on what I read and how I challenged myself to become more mindful.
I began reading ‘The Untethered Soul’ and was introduced to the idea of an ‘inner voice’. Singer says that everyone has an inner voice that speaks to them. You ask it questions, and it responds. You may try to figure out which aspect of your inside voice is truly ‘you’. Singer says that the reality is none of them are truly ‘you’. Your inner voice and thoughts have no control over situations that happen around you. Instead “you will see that the real cause of problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems”. Your inner voice attempts to give you some sense of control over what is happening in the world around you. This control, however, creates a personal representation of the world based on what you see, instead of the reality that actually exists. The author suggests that the first step on a spiritual journey is to quiet this inner voice, and engage with reality fully, which he warns will be uncomfortable.
Day one exercise:
- I decided to do some research beyond my readings and looked into apps that help support and teach meditation techniques. I also began paying attention to my inner voice, and what it was saying to me, trying to understand the different ways it tried to exert a sense of ‘control’ over my life and interactions.
The readings I completed on day two focused on the importance of taking responsibility to fix my own problems. Singer says that instead of looking for outside sources to find a solution to a given problem, you should look to yourself. He suggests diving deep to the root of the problem, and addressing it head on. I believe meditation can come in hand, when trying to “objective[ly] watch your problems instead of being lost in them” and help to understand the root of the problem so it can be addressed.
Day two exercise:
- I spent a day watching what my inner voice was telling me. As Singer suggested in his book, I personified my inner voice and imagined spending the day with them. I thought of them as a friend. Singer says to think about why we put up with our inner voice speaking to us in a way that we would never accept from a friend. Spending a day listening to and focusing on my own inner voice helped me to begin realizing this truth, my inner voice is often destructive and just a way to feel control over certain aspects of my life. Many times, it was my own inner thoughts that created problems in my head, where there was no problem in the real world.
Singer stressed the idea of the importance of constantly asking yourself: “Who am I?”. Singer notes that this is not who you are in relation to who you are too others, and it has no relation to what you are doing in this exact space in time. Remove these factors (such as age, race, gender, family and friend) from your life and your physical and spiritual soul remain. By asking yourself who you are, you begin to become more conscious. By first becoming aware that it is your consciousness that shapes who you are, he stresses that you can begin to understand things based on your first conscious perceiving of them, instead of focusing on them based on what your inner voice depicts of them.
Day three exercise:
- I asked myself regularly: “Who am I?” Singer says that this will eventually allow you to shift your point of view to one where you move to the centre of your consciousness, moving behind everything and watching. I’ll be honest, I struggled with remembering to ask myself this question. But when I did remember, I forced myself to also become more conscious and aware of my surroundings, while quieting my inner voice. I found it quite hard to view the world in this unfiltered way, and it did not come naturally, but brought about a new understanding and viewing of the world.
On day four I decided to put my words into action and found a way to incorporate meditation into my daily routine. As a result, I incorporated my exercise with my learning. One of my own common practices that I didn’t realize I could use as meditation is artwork. Beading or painting forces me to focus on a task and helps quiet my inner voice. My goal will to be to incorporate these things more frequently in my routine and use them at times to think about ‘who I am’ and improve my own awareness of the world around me.
I chose to use this last day to reflect on what I had completed the previous four days. While I am aware four days is a short period of time to make any lasting change, I recognize the immense benefits that the suggestions given by Singer would have over a longer period of time. I see the benefits of being more aware and understanding my own inner voice in contributing to positive benefits to my mental health. I came out of the experience understanding vastly more about meditation and mindfulness, and with a desire to keep trying to incorporate Singer’s suggestions into my day to day life.
For more ideas to unwind from that end-of-semester pressure, check out Stress Less Week, Dec. 3 – 7 in Mac Hall.
Justine is a final year Indigenous Studies and Political Science student, and a research assistant at the Students’ Union. Her passions include Dana Scully and getting expensive tattoos. She is currently trying to perfect her French because a student advisor once told her she’d never get a good paying job speaking zero French, and that scared her merde-less.