things people say sometimes about mediation that prevent them from really doing it:
- i don’t/can’t meditate because i can’t stop myself from thinking.
- i meditate by doing things i like. when something causes me contentment, i am meditating.
- in the dictionary, meditate is defined as: to think carefully or deeply about something.
meditation changes lives. a regular, formal practice alters the brain in objectively (scientifically) observable ways. the inner experience of these changes and those less observable are profoundly freeing and uplifting. the benefits are too great to wave aside arbitrarily for a lack of information or understanding. let’s dispel some common misconceptions.
stopping the mind from thinking through use of volition is virtually impossible
a common misconception: meditation is about quieting the mind, therefore we must use our will power to squelch and strangle every poor little thought… if this were the case, no one would ever meditate. there’s no way such self-abuse could ever lead anyone to an inner state of peace.
the thinking mind has long been compared to a monkey. the monkey chatters. the monkey swings from branch to branch. it’s attention span leaves much to be desired. the monkey is not tame and obeys it’s own nature.
don’t strangle your monkey. first of all, he’s only doing what he does because it is his nature. secondly, monkeys freak when you try to strangle them. don’t be a jerk to your monkey.
so, decoding the above: it is the nature of the mind to think. why expect otherwise? the important realization, the absolutely critical realization, is that you are not your thoughts, you are not your mind. ask: who is it that is watching the monkey…?
and where does this leave us? in a position to stop chasing the poor little simian all over the place. chill and monkey-watch. human awareness is powerful. giving chase to thoughts imbues them with energy and gives rise to potentially endless narratives. observing rather than engaging thoughts will calm and quiet the monkey-mind. this takes practice, but practice is synonymous with success. every time i remember to disengage from the stream of thoughts and become the witness once more, i have succeeded.
liking what your are doing at the moment is not the same as meditating.
as an artist, i’m no stranger to the meditative mood. accessing creativity is like a switching back and forth between rational thinking states and deeper no-thought states that yield inspiration. those no-thought states might be same as or similar to a meditative state. but without the intention of meditating, of encouraging that inner space one moment at a time, it isn’t meditating.
i experience random sensations of deep interconnection with all of creation. it’s a good time that might relate directly to my own spiritual foundation, but it does not offer the same benefits as actually meditating. meditation might foster in one a deep sense of affinity, contentment, and joy, but the reverse is not valid logic.
the dictionary definition implying intentional thought is clearly not the subject at hand
i’m not saying that the definition in Websters is invalid. lots of words have multiple meanings or mean different things in different contexts. but clearly we are talking about the not-thinking kind here.
give it a shot because there are no substitutions for becoming the master of your own mind. how powerful are your thoughts? do they serve you well? do they sweep you up in a storm? leave you with clenched fists over a scenario merely imagined? how much energy could be refocused to better use with an improvement in your thought-life?
i recommend this book:
“Joy of Living” by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
for its great basic meditation techniques. his approach is lighthearted and accessible. this book is very secular and mentions more science than faith. i’m big on faith, don’t get me wrong – my own faith is deepened by the benefits of meditation. but sometimes you just need to retrain your brain. its non-religiousness renders it suitable for all audiences.