Meditation as an exercise

Sometimes when operating within difficult external conditions our internal environment becomes a sanctuary and place of refuge. What then matters is our awareness of this place and its importance.

We have little control over our external world because life happens for better or for worse. If Government policies are wrong resulting in little confidence in the economy or country reducing purchasing power, valuations and opportunity there is very little that most of us can do at the individual level until the next general election.

However we have more control over our internal world and this gives us the ability to balance any negative or adverse external experiences with positive, constructive internal ones.

The architect of this equilibrium is our mind and it therefore becomes important not just to feed our mind with the right amount of nutrition, by way of knowledge and good information, but to exercise it as well.

I spoke to and coached cancer patients mid last year on how they could build their self-esteem and I spoke at the 15th annual Wimbiz conference in November 2016 about ‘Finding Your Happy’. In both talks I highlighted six important pillars to building self worth and happiness:

The practice of living life consciously, i.e. are you mindful of your behavior and the thoughts you are having?
The practice of self-acceptance, i.e. do you accept yourself as you are or do you wish you were smarter, prettier etc?
The practice of self-responsibility, i.e. do you actually take responsibility for your life, not just the good experiences but the bad ones as well?

The practice of self-assertiveness, i.e. how assertive are you especially around others?
The practice of living purposefully, i.e. do you have something that your life is about that is greater than yourself?
The practice of personal integrity, i.e. are you living in line with your own highest values.

They say that knowledge is power, a premise that tends to justify the excessive pursuit of schooling especially western. I say that belief is the real power because without it you cannot make effective or optimal use of knowledge.

This belief first starts with ‘I’ or oneself and it is the mind’s most important architectural tool.We must believe in, like and love ourselves first before we can believe in others. We must stop comparing ourselves and instead feed ourselves with positivity, celebrate our small successes and qualities, do good for others, follow are heart and be true to who we are.

The resulting strong self-concept is now what builds our refuge.However good nutrition is not enough, we have to exercise to maintain and cement a strong sustainable sanctuary over time.So how do we exercise our minds? There are three proven methods:

By exercising our bodies.Through artistic and creative pursuits.

Through meditation.
I am still surprised by the pervasive lack of understanding, even by seasoned intellectuals, of the connection between mind, body and spirit.
Most people exercise for health or aesthetic reasons as opposed to mental or even spiritual reasons unable to see the congruence between physical and mental agility or even physical training and character.

Earlier this month on a workout evening I had a headache. One of the most difficult things to do when this happens is to muster the will to go to the gym and train, especially when one’s head is pounding, but I went. In doing so I went beyond discipline into the discomfort zone and through the pain barrier as every athletic movement and muscular exertion hurt not just physically but mentally.

This ordeal and experience builds what I call psychological muscle, the critical component of character. Interestingly, by the end of such workouts my headache usually subsides.

The psychological muscle required to do the right thing, delay gratification and keep going when things get tough gets built through challenge and adversity.

A regular and robust physical exercise program can consistently simulate such adversity, working out the mind and fortifying character.Artistic excellence is, generally speaking, difficult to attain.

It takes time, in some cases a lifetime, and so requires patience, discipline and humility regardless of innate ability.One has to practice, practice and continue practicing; it never ends as each technical hurdle simply gives way to even greater hurdles.

The mind has to first execute each note of the symphony, dance or Aria before it can be perfectly expressed on the stage, instrument or canvas. It’s a grueling, oftentimes thankless, daily workout that helps to develop and strengthen psychological muscle.

Meditation is the best mental exercise of them all and is simply the practice of focusing one’s awareness or attention on just about anything. It is the best way to improve one’s powers of concentration and can be practiced at any time of the day from one minute to several hours.
Two methods involve either concentrating on one’s breathing or reciting a mantra such as “God is love’.

The difficulty is not allowing any extraneous thoughts to interrupt one’s focus which is incredibly challenging as our minds are overloaded with random thoughts from a stressful, over-stimulated external world. Practice eventually brings those thoughts under our control.

The following is a wonderful loving kindness meditation that not only exercises and tones psychological muscle but also nurtures that refuge of peace, serenity and balance.Recite the following mantra for at least 5 minutes every day:
I like myself, may I be happy.
I like myself, may I be at peace.
I like myself, may I be loved.

For more transformational messages please visit, instagram: skfahm, Facebook: Kayode Fahm, Twitter: @kayodefahm.
Kayode Fahm is a motivational speaker, coach and content producer.

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