Meditation Is Not As Impossible As You Think
Whenever the subject of meditation comes up with someone new, as it invariably does when one is about to publish a memoir about exploring the practice, I often get told, ‘I’d really like to meditate, but I can’t.’
‘What makes you think that?’ I reply, at which point the person usually leans in towards me. With a look of worry/disappointment/shame, they divulge their secret.
‘My mind is crazy,’ they say. ‘I sit there and I can’t stop my thoughts. It’s impossible.’
This is when I tell them, ‘Sorry to break it to you, but you’re not special. At least not in that way. It’s the same for all of us.’
A wild mind is exactly why we practise meditation. It’s the perfect reason to start, not a reason to stop.
The look of relief that comes next—because they’ve just been reassured they’re not crazy (or, more accurately, that they’re kind of crazy but only as much as the average person)—is quite endearing.
The thing is, when we first begin to meditate it can seem as though we really are going crazy. This may be because we’ve noticed our thoughts for the first time and seen that they are rambling, random, unproductive, aimless, and most often completely out of our control.
Sitting quietly, we find that thoughts arise of their own accord. We need not summon them; we cannot command them to stop; we cannot even demand that they be of a certain nature. (Or if we stubbornly try to demand it, we can be sure they will not oblige.)
It’s actually a wonderful thing to realise, for we may also start to become aware that we are not our thoughts and our thoughts are not us. With practice, we may learn to settle our minds and experience qualities of mind beyond our ordinary thoughts. Qualities such as contentment, joy, and love.
Even when thoughts continue to arise, we do not have to be at their mercy. We can simply let them arise and dissolve without getting caught up in them.
One of the most ancient and universal meditation techniques to help us do this is to gently focus our awareness on the breath. Every time we realise we’re caught up in our random thoughts again, we simply bring our attention back to the breath.
I made a short, light-hearted video about it you can watch here
Most of all, there’s no point in judging ourselves. I’ve been practising meditation for several years and still have days when I sit on my cushion and find myself distracted by an unending stream of thoughts. But my practice is to gently keep bringing my focus back to my breath. It doesn’t matter how many times.
Like any meditator, I’m a work in progress, but even my imperfect practice has had a significant positive impact on my life. So I’m not about to let my crazy thinking mind stop me from meditating, and I hope you won’t let yours stop you either!
If you’d like to try a short, lightly guided meditation, I produced one you can download for free here.
If you’d like to learn more about the practice of meditation, I’d encourage you to seek a qualified teacher or check out some reading resources. One of my favourite guides, written by Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm, is ‘Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond: A Meditator’s Handbook’.
With love, Narissa
Narissa Doumani, author of A Spacious Life: Memoir of a Meditator
live mindfully ~ love openly
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Musings on love, happiness, writing books, and living with meaning by Buddhist author Narissa Doumani.
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