“It is being here now that is important. There is no past and there is no future.
Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the NOW”
We have all heard of meditation. We have all heard about its benefits. We all know that it has been proven to be one of the best tools to becoming more productive, calmer and more ‘you’ than ever before. Yet, most of us fear the idea of sitting still and paying close attention to our breath. We feel this mild panic, when told to sit with our thoughts.
A few years ago, I was part of the camp that couldn’t dream of being still and always had an excuse for how my mind would never be blank enough to meditate. For me, it seemed rather odd to listen to the incessant chatter in my head. I had made the assumption that I would get bored if I did nothing, even if it was just for 10 minutes.
But then I heard an analogy on meditation that made absolute sense to me, which eventually led to an inner voice that said – ‘hey, why don’t you give this a shot’, and well, the rest as they say is history.
So, what was that story that changed my mind? Well meditation is like imagining your mind as the CEO and all your thoughts are like small projects coming your way for VC funding. Now as the CEO mind, you are going to observe all the thought projects and decide which ones add value to your company (YOU) and hence fund it with emotions/thoughts/ideas and reject the ones that no longer serve you. You are slowly but surely, taking complete control of your mind in a gentle, easy way.
So let’s start with what is Meditation (a simple definition that I promise will not scare you)
Meditation is not about being a whole new person or even a better person. It is simply a training in awareness to gain a healthy sense of perspective. During meditation you DO NOT have to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You are simply spending some time observing your thoughts, without judgement. The more you meditate, the more you will understand your thoughts and feelings.
Meditation is awareness – when we meditate, we dedicate a certain amount of time and effort to being mindful – aware of all of your core senses.
But most importantly, meditation is NOT about emptying your mind or sitting blank for hours.
I am sure you are now wondering how does meditation work without erasing ones thoughts.
Let me simplify it for you (one of the many ways you can meditate)
- Find a comfortable place to sit – your bed, a cushion, on the ground – whatever feels easy for you. Sit upright and be still.
- Close your eyes and slowly bring your attention to a meditation object – the breath, for example – now pay attention to it. Let your mind gently settle on your breath.
- Breathe in – bring awareness to the air coming in
- Breathe out – bring awareness to the breath leaving your body
You will likely notice that your mind will not settle. One moment you might notice your breath and the next moment you might be planning your next holiday and then the next you might be re-living a past memory. This is all perfectly normal. It is your mind after all. It is completely creative and always wants itself to be heard.
Surprisingly enough, trying to stop your mind from thinking is like trying to stop the wind – it’s impossible. In Eastern teaching, the mind is described as being like a drunken monkey bitten by a scorpion… just as a monkey leaps from branch to branch, so the mind leaps from one thing to another, constantly distracted and busy. So, when you come to sit still and try to quieten your mind, you find all this manic activity and it seems insanely noisy. This isn’t something new, just that you are now becoming aware of it. You previously lived immersed in it, unaware that such chatter was so constant.
When you give your mind a place to express itself, it is the first step to getting to know it and learning to harness its power. When you feel like you have moved away from your breath, you gently but firmly invite it to come back to your breath. As you start doing this practice of bringing it back again and again, you tend to be increasingly more mindful.
In a nutshell, meditation is not about forcing the mind to be absolutely still. Rather, it’s a letting go of resistance, of whatever may arise – doubt, worry, uncertainty and feeling inadequate, the endless drama, fear and desire. Every time you find your mind drifting, daydreaming, remembering the past or planning ahead, just come back to now, come back to this moment. All you need do is pay attention and be with what is. Nothing else.
Remember, music needs to be played for hours to get the notes right, while in Japan it can take 12 years to learn how to arrange flowers. Being still happens in a moment, but it may take some time before that moment finally comes – hence the need for patience. With time, the mind will catch on – once you discover the peace and richness of just being present, it will become harder for you to pull away.
Start with putting a timer for just a minute and then gradually build it up to 15 minutes or more, at least once a day. For me, even a few minutes of meditation makes me feel grounded, at peace and ensures I only respond to life situations instead of being reactive. Do give this a try, I promise you, you will not regret it.