I used to think mediating was hard because well, it was. Every time I sat down to do it I found myself fidgeting and wishing I was somewhere else. Eventually I’d get irritated and get up. End of session.
But in yoga teacher training, I was trained in the basics of meditation and realized that it wasn’t meditation that was hard, it was my perception of what I thought mediation was that was causing me difficulties.
A common misconception is that meditation is about ‘clearing your mind of thoughts’. So, we sit down and close our eyes and try to push all of the thoughts out of our heads. But, with this kind of force, the mind retaliates and actually becomes busier.
What we want to do is to simply observe the thoughts. As if we were sitting in a theatre, we sit in our minds eye and perform a process of allowing the thoughts to come and go. Our minds will jump on thoughts here and there in an effort to follow the progression of the thought to an end resolution – take us on what I call a ‘thought train’. When this happens, we remember we are meditating, gently jump off, let the thought go and bring our awareness back to the here and now. I bring my awareness back to my third eye in the centre of my forehead and say, “I am not my thoughts.” This was the technique taught to me. I have since added, “I am not my emotions. I am not my stories”. You could also say something like, “Come back to centre”.
It’s that simple.
In the beginning, you’ll probably find it annoying. You may be antsy and restless and have thoughts like, “Why the hell am I doing this? I have sooo many other things I need to be doing right now!”, or, “Ug I’m so tired. I hate this. I can’t shut my mind up.”
I felt like I was just sitting and thinking. My mind was packed to the brim with a jumble of thoughts on various topics and I would jump from one thought train to the next for the whole half an hour. It felt exhausting on some days.
But then gradually I became aware of the nature of my thoughts. Firstly, I noticed that most of my thoughts were negative. Second that they were either regurgitating and reworking the past – meetings with people, things I never said, sorrows, annoyances, dark memories – or the future – worrying.
After three months of a regular meditation practice I was starting to look forward to the sessions. They had become very relaxing and it was easier for me to sit and deepen my awareness and become still. But, I was still just ‘sitting and thinking’. Sometime I would get annoyed at the thoughts because they seemed so loud and abrasive and I just wanted quiet.
Then one day I was inside the theatre of my mind, watching the thoughts, when suddenly I saw all of the them coalesce into a stream, then a torrential river. I watched the river and heard the thoughts come together into a kind of deafening roar of life experience – tears, whining, yelling, screeching, laughing. I saw myself levitate up above this river, there was a forest around me. My head was a pulsing ball of light, like a tiny sun.
A Voice came into my awareness and said, “With all of this noise, how can you hear anything?”. I realized that up above the murmur of the river, there was complete silence. I sat in it for the rest of the session. It was amazing!
This is what we strive for in meditation. First, to become aware of our thoughts – whether you meditate or not, those thoughts are always there with you, governing your psyche. Imagine that! Your negative self-talk tapes and loops that you inherited from your dad or mom or whomever, are actually driving your bus, until you face them. Meditation just allows you to finally hear them. Then, eventually, to gain separation from them and uncover the true ‘you’ without them.
Who are you without all of your thoughts? What are you without all of your judgements, memories, criticisms, worries and fears? Without your loves and desires? Your heartache and heartbreak? Your stories?
To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking.
~ John Kabat Zinn, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
We are all beings of light – tiny and infinite sparks of the Divine. You are much more than a biological being, you are Soul come to this earth-school to study in your cage of bones and gravity. Meditation will uncover the spark in you.
You will remember.
My personal experience of the benefits of a regular meditation practice:
- increased patience and tolerance for frustrating or annoying situations (read: being a MOM)
- dramatic increase with dream recall; also vivid dreams full of symbols and messages
- time stretching – I swear that time lasts longer when I am meditating regularly. There is just way more time in the day. It’s like everything slows down.
- increased ability to relax on cue – emotional management
- increased gratitude for life
- mindfulness and living in the present moment – more enjoyment and contentment, less worry, fear, self-doubt, distrust of others, suspicion
- increased instances of synchronicity
- and, most of all, the most helpful to me and the most dramatic is a new-found ability to let shit go. Things just don’t ‘hook’ me like they used to. Things that would have driven me mad before are barely causing a ripple in my calm. I’ve noticed it in the moment too; “Wow why am I not pissed off right now? Normally this would really piss me off”.
Can’t manage your angry outbursts? Meditate.
Depressed, full of anxiety? Meditate.
Inundated by your incessant monkey-mind? Meditate.
Yelling at your kids? Feeling hopeless, worthless, plagued by the past? Wishing, above all wishes that you could change these things about yourself? Feeling like a shitty mom/dad or like you just keep trying and trying to be better but you keep failing? Wishing you had more time, or were less stressed, harried and busy? Wishing you could just sit with your family and enjoy them? Or wishing that you felt like you could actually handle your life?
Meditate. Meditate. Meditate.
Seriously people, daily meditation will fix all of it.
All. Of. It.
It has for me and I am no expert. My practice has only just begun. Meditation hasn’t changed my life, it has changed me.
So – start with just 10 minutes, or 5 even, if that feels too long, and work your way up a couple minutes every few days until you get to half an hour. Carve out a space in your day (best at dawn or right when you are arising in the morning) and commit to the 21 days it takes to form a new habit. Cross it off on your calendar each day. Congratulate yourself each day. You’ll find after that, that if you skip a day, you’ll miss it and come back to it. The seed will be planted.
You can’t stop the waves,
but you can learn to surf. ~ John Kabat Zinn
Science has been catching up. Check this chart for a brief rundown of all of the benefits of meditation that have been scientifically proven.
Do you find it hard to meditate? Let’s talk in the comments below!
xo SM 😉
featured image found at Wikimedia