What You Always Wanted to Know About Meditation

What is meditation actually? What are its benefits? But most of all: how do you do it? These questions I ask to Vanessa Verheyden.

09-09-2015 -  by Kevin Van der Straeten

Comment this tv episode

Do you have an account on healthlab.tv? Sign in here
Do not have an account yet? Write your comment here:


What is meditation actually? What are its benefits? But most of all: how do you do it? These questions I ask to Vanessa Verheyden.


Hi Vanessa, welcome to our studio.  


Hi Kevin. 


We're going to talk about meditation, but that doesn't sound down to earth. 


Well, meditation is about having no thoughts. Being thoughtless. And I'm sure that lots of people have the experience that when for example they are laying in their bed in the evening, they have millions of thoughts about what they are going to do in the morning, or they need to go to the supermarket or pick the kids up early at school. Or for example you're coming from an important meeting and you're driving your car, and you're rethinking about what this person said in the meeting or what you should have said. So there are a million of thoughts going through your head. And lots of people say: "when I come home and I de-stress, I can do it by working in the garden. That's my way to de-stress, to really calm my mind". 


So it's not the image of a monk sitting on his carpet? 


Well, I have to say: there are different ways to meditate. And for example working in the garden can be one and running can be another one or baking. But if you say: "I want to take it a step further", then it's nice to go and sit down. And you don't need to sit down like a monk cross-legged on the floor. 


That's what you usually sit like, right?  


No, it needs practice. It asks for practice. And to sit still for a long time asks for practice as well. But you can sit in a chair really relaxed. With a straight back and not cross-legged. It's no problem at all to really do that. What I wanted to say is that meditation really helps you to get it a level further. And why would we take it a level further? It's because it gives us so many benefits in our lives. And you could say: "okay, I de-stress when I work in a garden", but when I am in a stressful situation, working in the garden will not help me to be calm. By practising meditation maybe on a daily basis, if you're ready to do it... And it's not necessary: you can do it three times a week or whatever you want. But the more you're going to practice, the more you're going to find inner peace and spread out that peace around you. So if you're in a stressful situation like for example having a discussion with your husband, or your kids are really arguing together, instead of going into the situation and really being a part of it, you're going to extract yourself from the situation. Watch it like you would watch in a meditation. Because when you meditate... When you start meditating for the first time you will have lots of thoughts coming in, like: thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, and then nothing, and then thoughts again, and then maybe nothing. And then the more you meditate, the more you will have: nothing, nothing, nothing, a thought, and then nothing, nothing and a thought. So you're watching the situation and then instead of going into it, you will listen to what someone else has to say, and then when you're really calm, you will react. It could be that you're not reacting, but it could be that you're really reacting. So it helps you to really calm down in your life. And what it helps as well is to focus better. To have a better concentration. Let's say that before if I would have several tasks to do, it would take me several hours or a certain time. Now, because of the fact that you're meditating and you're concentrating, you will do the same tasks in less time. And that means... 


Because you are more trained in focusing on things?  


Exactly, and you will also have more quality time to spend, or even more time to meditate or spend with your family or friends. So it really has benefits on lots of levels, as well in decision making for example, because if you want to try to have no thoughts, what you need to do is concentrate on one thought. So if you concentrate on that one thought, you become really good at it. So when you need to take a decision, you're rethinking the positive and negative things people are saying. "Oh you should do this" or: "you should do that". But by really training yourself, you're gonna say: "no, I know where I need to go". And then you know which decision is the right one to take. And there's the philosophy: "if you don't take the right one, there's still another one to take". So there are different parts to take and there's no wrong or right. 


But when we're talking about meditation, the big question is: "how do you do it?" Because not having thoughts... Well, I immediately start to have other thoughts. How do you handle that?  


Well, there are different techniques to meditate. And it all depends on the person. For example: for different persons, different techniques. Let's say that you are someone really visual. Then you can for example visualize a light or a little flame. You look at the flame of a little candle. Or if you love nature, for example, you could even visualize an image in nature that really calms you down. You could for example visualize an image... If you are a fan of, let's say, the Dalai Lama, you could really visualize this. Why would you do it? Because you like some characteristics that you want to have yourself. And once you start really concentrating on one thought, at a certain moment you are becoming that thought. You are becoming one with that thought, and so you are coming in the space of no thoughts, where you are like in this vacuum of no thoughts, which is a really nice feeling. So for visual people you have a visualization. But you also have people who are very auditive, and so you could use a mantra. And a mantra is like a very strong sentence that elevates you, but it could also be like a sound or a word. And you repeat it out loud or in your mind. That's another technique. Or if you are for example someone really physical, like you really need to exercise a lot before your mind calms down, then you for example could use yoga or tai-chi or qi-gong, because all the postures are made to get into meditation. They work on your parasympathic nervous system. So it depends on which kind of person you are, and it's very important to really prepare very well. The preparation is sometimes far more important than doing the meditation. 


Is it?  


Yes, because for example by doing certain breathing exercises, you prepare yourself already, you calm down your mind to get into meditation. And also you need to give yourself a little attention and say: "okay I'm going to do it 3 times a week" or: "once a day", and for example: "I'm going to do it in the morning or in the evening". And really be motivated. Find a little space, where you feel safe and where you feel at home. And don't try to do it for example after coming just from a very important phone call, and it was a very difficult phone call, and then say: "I'm gonna go and sit on my mat and meditate", because it's not going to work, totally not going to work. But if you find the right time, then little by little it asks practice. And it's practice for a long time without a break and with all of your heart. But it's only a way, a way to get to inner peace. And there are different ways. If your way is for example diving or running, it's good as well. But it's the same as with: if you want to have a nice body, you have to go to the gym every day. If you want to have a quiet mind, you need to practice it. 


Okay, let's start practicing then.  


Haha, yes. 


Vanessa, thank you very much for coming over.  


Thank you very much for having me. 



And you at home: thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week!