For a while now I have been what I would consider a “regular meditator”, meaning, I would typically practice a guided or silent meditation for about 10-15 minutes, a couple of times each week. As some of you may know, I’m currently in the midst of a 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training program, to receive a certificate and hold the title of 500 hour Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Part of the training has been to establish a daily (not regular, but daily) 30 minute silent meditation practice, and oh boy, what an interesting experience that has been! My meditation practice, and my relationship with meditation have certainly blossomed to a new level. Before I share some of the nitty gritty of what my personal experience with this meditation practice has been like, I would like to share what I have learned about meditation so far, and debunk a common meditation myth.
I think most people think of meditation as a practice that’s all about becoming present by clearing your mind. There’s some sort of funky misconception that in order to be present, you can’t have any thoughts floating around in your mind to distract you. If you do, well then, you’re doing meditation wrong. I am here to tell you, you can take that pressure off of yourself. That sort of meditation philosophy isn’t exactly true, because, if thoughts ARE happening, wouldn’t becoming aware of your thoughts connect you to the true reality of the present moment? If thoughts are naturally occurring, trying to shove them to the side, and pretending that they’re not there is not real. Instead of clearing your mind of any and all thoughts, meditation is more about bringing attention to the thoughts that you ARE thinking. In meditation, it is so much more important to notice your thoughts and your thought patterns than to try and tell them to go away.
The key to the “becoming present” part is, though, to not get sucked down the rabbit hole of thoughts. If you allowed your mind to carry you away on a magical journey to all the thoughts you can possibly think, well, then, you wouldn’t really be present anymore. Instead, become aware of just one single thought, let it go, and then bring your awareness back to your breath. Breath, is truly what connects you to the present moment. Think about it - you cannot possibly bring all of your attention to each inhale and exhale, one at a time, and still have other thoughts arise.
Another key to this form of meditation, is to be gentle with yourself for whatever arises, or however it arises. It’s totally counterproductive to be hard on yourself for thinking, because, we are human, after all, and isn’t one of the greatest aspects of humanity our minds?
So, with meditation, a true practice of awareness, self-love, and non-attachment is really what we’re talking about.
We can learn so much about ourselves if we practice meditation in this way. For example, I’ve noticed a particular thought pattern of mine is to think about the future. In meditation, I’m constantly thinking about sequencing my classes, creating playlists, emails and messages that I need to send, chores that need to get done around the house, etc. This tells me many things, but mainly it tells me, that if I really do want to get all of these things done, I must take some time to re-ground myself into the present moment. If I allow all of these thoughts about what I “need to” and “should” do to continue to swirl around my head, I’ll continue to feel overwhelmed, and nothing will ever actually get done.
You know how that works, right? The more and more you say to yourself, “Ah, I REALLY need to do this, and man, I really need to get that done too!” the more anxious you feel, and the less productive you actually become. Instead, if you approach your “to-do” list with a sense of calm and grounding in the present moment, you can much more easily see and approach each task one at a time, one breath at a time, and ultimately, get more done. Most importantly, you’ll get more done the RIGHT way. When I say the “right” way, I mean, you’ll produce a product that, in the end, you are truly proud of.
I would never come to realize and learn so much, if I didn’t give myself the space to become aware of my thoughts. If I succumbed to self-judgement for having thoughts, and tried to push them to the side, after meditation, my monkey mind and self-deprecating thoughts would only get worse.
One of the coolest things about this meditation practice, is that, the practice is never-ending. As beings of nature, we are constantly in a state of change - whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally. There are no two days in life where every layer of the day’s experience occur in exactly the same way as the day before. So, there is always something new to discover, and always something new to learn. There is always some takeaway from your meditation that you can apply to your every day life.
Giving yourself the space to unearth your thoughts and patterns each day allows you the opportunity to move throughout your life with more ease, more calm, more understanding, and more mindfulness.
Have you ever practiced this form of meditation? If so, what was the experience like for you? What did you learn? What was brought to your attention? If not, would you be interested in trying it.
Photo by: Peter Constantinople