From time to time, I encounter the idea that the practice of meditation should be a time of peace during which the mind is quiet and we connect inward. That’s certainly the experience we’re aiming for! But as beginning meditators, we are rarely blessed with a quiet, peaceful experience. Instead, our thoughts race all over the place. Our mind gets bored within seconds. We want to jump up and do something else after a minute or so. Sitting in meditation for even five minutes seems like torture. We may quickly come to the conclusion that meditation isn’t really “our thing.”
What we must understand as we begin our meditation practice is this: the mind doesn’t like it at all. It doesn’t want to be quiet. The mind enjoys running the show. If you’re just starting a meditation practice, do not expect your mind to do as it is told. It wants to stay in control, and it will come up with all kinds of tricks to get you to quit. Your mind will wander. Then it will run.Â It will cause your body to twitch. It will tell you that meditation is boring and you can do without it.Â And the more resistant your mind is to your meditation practice, the more you have to gain!
Meditation isn’t so much about stopping or even slowing down your thoughts as it is about becoming the observer of your thoughts. Your mind is going to think its thoughts. That’s what it does. To try and stop all thought is impossible. There are really two main goals when we begin meditating. The first is to stop identifying with the thoughts. You observe them, and since it’s possible for you to observe them, you realize that they are not who you are. Your mind can merrily think away. Behind all those noisy thoughts, you remain calm and unaffected.
The second goal is to discipline the mind.Â We stop allowing your thoughts to think themselves. We do this by giving the mind something to do. The simplest meditation practice is to sit down, close your eyes and observe your breath. As simple as it sounds, this can be fiendishly difficult.Â After a mere 30 seconds or so, the undisciplined mind will get very bored and jump around. That’s okay – as soon as you notice that you’re no longer observing the breath, you return your mind to the breath. And it’ll jump around again thirty seconds later. So you bring it back to the breath. Think of your mind as a boisterous puppy, darting all over the place. Your job is to gently, lovingly, and determinedly bring it back to your breath. Over and over and over, you come back to your breath.Â Each time you bring your mind back to focus on your breath, you have had a success in your meditation practice!Â You can also use a mantra as a focus. My personal favorite practice is to gaze at the light of a candle while counting breaths. The counting keeps the mind occupied.
Start your practice five minutes at a time. Expect your mind to put up a lot of resistance. Just do the best you can. Don’t expect peaceful stillness. Expect squirming discomfort.Â You are disciplining your mind to become your tool, rather than your master, with every second that you remain sitting in meditation. Your mind will eventually become quieter, and you will learn to focus your thoughts for longer periods of time.Â Until then, smile at your busy, whirlwind mind.Â Let it object.Â And remember that you, the observer, are making the choice for discipline and spiritual practice.Â And you are definitely in charge.
What were your experiences when you started meditating?Â Are you perhaps still shying away from a meditation practice?Â Share your meditation story!
Filed under: Meditation and Awakening Consciousness
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