ONE SIMPLE SHIFT TOWARD STILLNESS
Many of us are curious about the concept of meditation, but often feel they’re not cut out for something so passive or woowoo. In fact, the most common reason I hear for why people can’t or don’t engage in meditation is because it “sounds difficult.” This idea is often based on a huge misconception about the intention of meditation. Those new to meditation often believe they’re supposed to sit still, have no thoughts, and go into a deep state. That would indeed seem difficult for anyone who’s not a monk living in the mountains. Fortunately none of these principles is necessary for meditation.
For those of us who live amidst real life stressors like work, people, and life’s expectations, then sitting still without thoughts would be near impossible. Meditation is not about achieving stillness of any kind. Meditation focuses on an intention, instead of an outcome. Meditation is about becoming the observer of your thoughts, not getting rid of thoughts. Meditation is about quieting the mind, not going into a trance. The outcome of meditation may lead to a quieter mind, fewer thoughts, and even a deep mental state, but those are all potential outcomes. Remember, outcomes are not the basis of meditation. Intention is.
To meditate, we simply set an intention to seek, not achieve, some level of stillness of mind. We embrace curiosity, not judgement. We intend to still the mind and become curious about it. We seek no outcome. We just observe. We observe our thoughts, as well as our reaction to our thoughts. We separate ourselves from our thoughts, so they no longer control us. We can then release thoughts, so we don’t turn them into chains of thoughts or stories, in which we are trapped. We simply let go of thoughts over and over. This is a practice.
As we meditate, we are practicing how to quiet the mind as we intentionally train the brain to do so. The brain has the capacity to change in response to repeated experience. This ability is called neuroplasticity. The more we meditate, the more we are able to rewire the brain to make meditation easier.
In meditation we usually focus on one concept, like our breath. Each time a thoughts arises, we can release it and come back to our breath. As we notice the thought arising, we can tag it, deeming it a “thought,” and releasing it. This is how we train our mind to release thoughts. This is meditation; the intention of quieting the mind, without judgement, with curiosity, and compassion. Self compassion is an important quality of meditation. Go easy on yourself.
Meditation is always a practice, and never a perfection. For this reason, we can all meditate. The most difficult meditation is always the first. Once we’ve meditated even one time, we know what meditation is not. It is not an outcome. We cannot fail at meditating, but we can fail to try it… until of course, we do it.