“Quiet the mind,” this is how I start most of my meditation practices. Take a moment to settle, to arrive, to quiet the mind. What does this mean? It’s such a tough task, for you and for your mediation teacher alike. It gets easier of course, but some days hurtle a thousand thoughts in your direction and you get caught up in trying to hold onto them, to dissect them, to attach to them, to figure out what exactly they mean.
The initial goal of meditation is to separate yourself from your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. Your brain is a muscle that is constantly flexing, it’s comfortable in a tornado of thoughts whether they’re useful or not, your goal as a meditation practitioner is to sit in a calm state with all these thoughts swirling around you. To stay centered while tiny tidbits and major revelations are trying to pull you off your seat. Eventually the thoughts will start to fall away. They’ll live in the periphery and you’ll sit comfortably knowing you can engage if you see the thought as valid or useful, but also knowing you can allow the madness to swirl around you while you relax. These are the benefits of a consistent mediation practice. Internal calm even when the world around you is going up in flames.
I think this passage from Untethered Soul by Michael Singer explains it all quite well, “The key is to be quiet. It’s not that your mind has to be quiet. You be quiet. You, the one inside watching the neurotic mind, just relax. You will then naturally fall behind the mind because you have always been there. You are the consciousness that is behind the mind and is aware of the thoughts. The minute you stop putting your whole heart and soul into the mind as if it were your savior and protector, you will find yourself behind the mind watching it. That’s how you know about your thoughts: you are in there watching them. Eventually, you will be able to just sit in there quietly, and consciously watch the mind. Once you reach that state, your problems with the mind are over. When you pull back behind the mind, you, the awareness, are not involved in the process of thinking. Thinking is something you watch the mind do. You are just in there, aware that you are aware. You are the indwelling being, the consciousness. It is not something that you have to think about; you are it. You can watch the mind being neurotic and not get involved. That is all you have to do to unplug the disturbed mind. The mind runs because you are giving it the power of your attention. Withdraw your attention, and the thinking mind falls away.”
Are you ready to add an element of calm to your existence? Start by browsing my favorite mindfulness books then add three minutes of meditation to each day. Starting a practice can be challenging as there are so many mediations online to try. I suggest you sit on your own and focus on breathing in and out, nothing else, for three minutes. If you’re finding that to be challenging, browse online and try a new one each day until you’ve found a voice or routine you can connect to.
Katie here : I’ve made more of an effort to add meditation to my days over the past few months (does it have something to do with election results last November? maybe.). I definitely feel more grounded and able to keep my mind from being distracted by negative thoughts, and I like to see that there’s a growing body of research that supports these claims (along with many others!). That’s a Wikipedia link to meditation research, but I think it’s a great jumping off point that provides an overview of the field as well as links to primary sources. Now back to Sarah ~
When you’ve successfully sat for three minutes a day for a week, add a few more minutes. Notice the change. Stay present and centered, congratulate yourself for working towards a more balanced mindset and notice all the benefits of this new level of calm you live in. If you feel like it, let me know how it’s going 🙂