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What Happened To Meditation In Sri Lanka? We Got It All Wrong!

What happened to meditation in Sri Lanka? We got it all wrong!

I sit at my desk. On to my left, I have the to-do list for today. I’m pumped and motivated to get them done. I open my laptop. Who was that sexy actress from the movie last night? I better check out more movies of her. Shut up mind! Focus on your work. You can think about her later. I open Google Chrome and log in to the backend of www.jump.lk. Wonder how many likes I got to my status update yesterday? My fingers take control and I’m suddenly on Facebook. How did this idiot get so many likes? What? She’s in Hawai? Again? Stay focused man. You need to get your work done. I open a new post and start typing. Wonder what’s happening on WhatsApp? Suddenly I’m holding my phone and looking at stupid memes and moda jokes from countless WhatsApp groups.

Sounds familiar? This is how my mind works. I’m sure it’s the same with yours too. Our mind is a thought-generating machine. All it does is think from the time you wake up till you fall asleep.

Thinking is great. There’s nothing wrong with it. But most of the time, we’re thinking unwanted stuff and we steer away from the things we are supposed to do. A big part of whatever you do depends on how focused you are and your constant mindless chatter can be an obstacle to what you’re doing. To get back on the track, you need to be mindful. That’s where meditation comes in.

What is meditation?

Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well. (Headspace.com)

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the ability to be present, to rest in the here and now, fully engaged with whatever we’re doing in the moment. (Headspace.com)

When you meditate, you will become mindful.

Why should you meditate?

Think of your mind as any other muscle in your body. Like every other muscle, your mind also needs a break to recover. Meditation is about giving your mind a little break every day.

Ever since I started meditating, the way my mind work has shifted. I’m in more control of my thoughts than before. Whenever I think about something negative or harmful, I catch myself immediately. I have started to accept my weird and “wild” thoughts without any judgments. I don’t get the urge to take my phone to the toilet anymore. I have the willpower to not check WhatsApp or Social Media at least until I have done the most important thing of the day.

I’m not saying my life has become perfect. I still get upset and carried away to dark places sometimes. But I’m more aware of my thoughts and I’m more aware of what I do now.

Life can feel like a train with no brakes sometimes. From the time you wake up till you fall asleep, you may feel like you’re running on a never stopping treadmill. I was like this once. But meditation helped me to take breaks from life. I have started appreciating life and everything that life has offered me. I take time to look at flowers and leaves. I take time to stare at the world without doing anything.

If you’re still skeptical about meditating, consider this. Top 80% of performers in any field meditate daily as a habit. That includes super famous and rich people like Oprah Winfrey, Kobe Bryant, Ray Dalio, Madonna, Hugh Jackman and the list goes on. Countless researchers have found that meditation (even a little bit) helps to become happier, healthier and successful in life.

So if you’re still not meditating, you’re missing out.

What happened to Sri Lankan meditation? We got it all wrong!

Meditation has been a part of Sri Lankan Buddhist culture for generations. But we never practiced meditation. Why? Because we got it all wrong! Remember the times when we were forced to meditate at schools and temples? Remember how hard it was to sit cross-legged, closing your eyes for hours and hours and focusing on your breath? I hated it. For some reason, I had real trouble sitting cross-legged. First, my legs started hurting, then my butt, followed by my neck and back! In no time, I couldn’t focus on anything but my aching body!

Click the image to know more about your posture

Even though I knew meditation was good, I never wanted to practice meditation because my previous experience was horrible. Imagine little Nishan sitting cross-legged focusing on inhaling and exhaling on a cement floor with nothing but a thin Pedura. No wonder I hated meditation so much!

Like everything else, we made meditation so difficult. We were taught to meditate for long stretches (20-30 minutes) without breaks. We were taught to have a laser-sharp focus on our breath. If we couldn’t focus for too long, we were failures. But that’s all wrong!

What did the western world do? They simplified meditation for all of us, bringing in habits and technology to meditation.

Meditation isn’t difficult

There’s no such thing as you need to sit cross-legged to meditate. You can meditate however you want. If you’re like me with flexibility issues, you can simply sit on a chair or lie on the bed and meditate.

You don’t have to meditate for hours. Start small.

Don’t try to meditate for an hour if you are starting out. Trying to tame your monkey mind is difficult. So start small. I started 5 minutes per day. Now I have increased up to 10 minutes. Think of meditation as a journey. Not a destination. The practice is more important than the time you meditate.

Repetition is the mother of all skills

Meditation is a skill and like every other skill, you need to practice to become better. So make it a habit. Add meditation to your daily routine. Make it more like brushing your teeth or having your morning cup of tea. I usually meditate every morning after reading for 30 minutes. Except for weekends, I never miss out. Now meditation has become a habit.

When you’re starting out, don’t try to meditate all 7 days. In case if you fail one day, you’ll feel like a failure and you’ll give up. My target is 4 days a week. If I achieve that, I feel like a winner.

When you start out, you will promise to give yourself 10 minutes every day for meditation but you may get caught up in the minutiae and forget to give that 10 minutes to yourself. Make sure to add a reminder to your calendar every day. Remember. If you can’t give 10 minutes to yourself every day, you don’t have a life.

Religion doesn’t matter

Meditation is being more aware of your thoughts. We all have thoughts despite our religions. So don’t worry about your religion. Meditation is for all of us. Also, every meditation app I have tried does not contain anything religious. It’s a simple practice of relaxing your mind.

Guided meditation is awesome!

Sitting all by yourself and focusing on your breath is difficult. Once you close your eyes, all kinds of thoughts would pop up. So you need guidance on your mind. That’s when you need guided meditation. In guided meditation, a voice guides you and takes you through the meditation. For beginners, guided meditation can be really helpful. You won’t be sitting all alone with your thoughts. Most apps include guided meditation for starting out. That’ll make your meditation a whole lot easier.

Meditation apps

I have literary tried almost every meditation app out there and following are some of my favorites. Most of them include few free lessons and when you advance, you’ll have to pay for them but it’s definitely worth paying.

  1. Headspace – You get 10 free guided meditation lessons for free. They got awesome explainer videos that could help to get a better grasp of what meditation is. Android iOS
  2. Calm – This app has the largest collection of free meditation lessons. They even have a bunch of stories to help you sleep better. Android iOS
  3. Meditation & Relaxation – This is by far the most simple meditation app I’ve used. They have 7 free lessons and few others. Android

Now don’t go nuts looking for reviews and trying to find the best meditation apps. Just select something and stick with it.

Sri Lankan meditation classes

Meditation is something you do on your own. But if you find it hard to meditate, you can always join a meditation class that can help you to get started. The best thing about a meditation class is, you will have a teacher. Your teacher can help you and guide you to start a more structured practice.

Also, doing something with a group is easier than doing alone. When you sign up for a meditation class, you will have to attend for it no matter what. You will be accountable to your teacher as well as yourself so there is a higher chance that you will show up. Once you get a solid foundation about meditation, you can stick with your class or continue on your own.

Following are a couple of places where you can join to meditate. I have never tried any of them but you’re welcome to try these places.

Prana Lounge – Colombo 07

The OM Space – Colombo 05

Colombo Meditation – Rajagiriya

Nilambe Buddhist Meditation Center – Galaha, Kandy

Sri Yoga Shala – Unawatuna, Galle

Nisala International – Udadumbara, Kandy (They have sessions on Colombo too.)

If you want to know more about meditation classes, check out Workout.lk for more details. If I have missed any places that you know of, please add a comment and let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

That’s it for now. Are you practicing meditation? Feel like sharing your experience? Add a comment below and let us know. Also, have I missed any meditation centers on the list? Add a comment and let me know and I’ll add it to this post.

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Nishan De Silva

Nishan is the founder of Jump.lk. He is a life enthusiast who loves reading and eating. His ambition is to travel 100 countries before dying (even though he hasn't been out of the country yet!)

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