August 29, 2011

Meditation: What’s going on? ~ Gijs Brat

Photo: Andrew Scott

It’s about being in the moment.

Every morning I sit for half an hour, or sometimes even an hour. I just sit with my eyes closed observing my breath; breathing in, breathing out, breathing in…‘What am I going to have for breakfast? Oatmeal or a smoothie? Do we have oatmeal or are we out…’Once I realize I am wandering of, and this happens more often than not, I acknowledge the thought, let go of it, and come back to my breathing. Breathing in, breathing out. This is my meditation practice.

I remember clearly the first time I really noticed the benefits of meditation. It was after a period of two months of daily practice. In one day I had two job interviews. Both interviews were very pleasant, I was me, I was engaging, I was listening and responding. I wasn’t thinking about possible outcomes of the interviews, nor thinking about the groceries I had to do afterwards, ‘I just was.’

Photo: Katie Marina Scott

I am not a monk, nor a scientist, I am not going to give you a road map to enlightenment nor explain to you how meditation changes you on a molecular level. I would just like to share with you what meditation is for me and how I benefit from my practice; who knows, you might want to give it a try. Here are some of the benefits that mediation can bring:

  1. On a basic level meditation is a way of training my concentration. Through meditation I can focus more intensively, extensively and over a longer period of time. It makes me more able to let go of the thoughts that are useless, for that moment, or useless anyway, like most of my thoughts. Meditation has proven to be a valuable addition to the otherwise physical training in my professional kickboxing career.
  2. On a deeper level meditation is the practice of stilling the mind with the intent to become more present. ‘Stilling the mind’ means letting my thoughts be for just what they are, and let them go by. Becoming more present’ means being more focused, more concentrated on what is here right now; it is about being in the moment.
  3. Through meditation I get to know myself better. I not only get quicker at ‘catching myself’ wandering off, but I also become more understanding of it. This makes me more compassionate towards others as well; it is easy to get caught up in a thought, and they are not always positive.
  4. As a result of my regular meditation practice I get to clean up all kinds of believes and assumptions that are not productive. This also gives me a different perspective on the things happening in my life, on how I do things; I actually get to choose a perspective, and the most productive way of doing things, instead of following my habitual patterns.

Photo: Natalie S

I really like to emphasize here that meditation is a constant practice, and like most practitioners I stumble often times. When I am hungry or tired, that smoothie, or bowl of oatmeal with apple, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon…is on my mind for a long time before I catch myself. That makes meditation also a tool to measure the state of my mind and my well-being at that moment. What is really going on right now?

Some advice for the starting meditator: Find a quiet place and sit comfortably on a meditation pillow but also a chair works well. Sit up straight, alert and set an alarm. Start with just 5 minutes. Be regular, same time every day.

The book that inspired me to meditate: ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn is a good resource.

Also, the retreat where I learned to meditate: www.dhamma.org.


Gijs Brat, Life Coach, dedicated to supporting teams and individuals in reaching their goals and attaining maximum results by exploring possibilities and focusing efforts. Besides life-coaching and meditation Gijs also practices yoga and kick-boxing. He’s happily married and lives in San Diego. Find him on www.gijsbrat.com and on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/GijsBratcom-Sports-Business-and-Life-Coaching/158120384225744

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