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When you mention the word meditation to people you seem to always get weird responses. It seems like it’s such a polarizing word isn’t it? The average person might think that meditation is only for hippies with dreadlocks, hairy armpits and prayer beads.
People from a religious background might think of meditation as “New Age” and immediately associate it with something that’s very much anti God.
If you look at the practice of meditation from one of those two polar opposites, you are labeling it and then judging that label from presuppositions from your upbringing that may or may not be true.
I know I always looked at people who said they meditated like they were New Age mystics from India with long bears and smelled bad. Years later I would view meditation as something that was evil and possibly from the devil.
I can’t believe I thought that. Wow…
In further articles I’ll discuss the health benefits of meditation but in this article I’d like to assume you see the benefits and want to improve your practice in some way.
I’ve been doing meditation almost daily for quite some time now and I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned and some insights that might help you.
Meditation is like taking a shower or brushing your teeth. In the winter time on a cold night after a long day a shower could feel like ecstasy. You could revel in the warmth of the water and how it feels as it warms your body up.
Other times the shower might be something you have to rush through because you’re late for an appointment.
But either way you see the value of it and most importantly you do it.
That’s how meditation is. Some days you might enjoy it and get a lot out of it while other days it seems like a grind and it’s really challenging to get through.
For some reason we’ve all had these thoughts put in our head that when we meditate we’re not supposed to think. Telling your mind not to think is like telling your lungs not to breathe. It’s what the mind does, it thinks!
It’s the nature of the mind to think and that’s okay. Every thought is an opportunity to increase your level of awareness.
Have you ever sat quietly for 10 minutes with your eyes closed while you’re breathing deeply and then you realize you’ve been thinking about everything you have to get done today? It happens to me all the time.
Hopefully with daily practice you’ll get to the point where you start to recognize you’re having thoughts as they come in, instead of 10 minutes later. Each thought is an opportunity to be aware that a) you’re having a thought and b) you can gently be guided back to your breath.
Notice I said gently. You shouldn’t “try” to not have thoughts as trying implies dissatisfaction with your current situation. Trying further engages your mind which is what you’d like to avoid. Just let yourself be guided back to your breath.
If you’re having thoughts, then it’s awesome! Welcome to the human race! Now use those thoughts to gently move back to your quiet mind.
It seems like when we begin meditating we have lots of ideas as to how it should go. We think after we finish we’ll feel like we’re walking on clouds or we’ll see some incredible vision during the time of silence.
Like I said before with the shower analogy, some days they’re great and others you simply have to get through it. When we have these preconceived ideas we begin to not only attach ourselves to these ideas, but we then start judging our meditation experience by these ideas.
Go into a session with no expectations, no judgments on how the outcome should be and you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience.
If you have a particularly “bad” meditative session don’t beat yourself up. If you notice lots of thought happening when you’re trying to quiet your mind don’t beat yourself up either. How we treat ourselves when we’re meditating is how we treat ourselves in our daily life. If we’re very judgmental and hyper critical of ourselves when we’re meditating, then we’ll be that way in our daily lives as well.
The true benefit of meditation happens when you’re not actually meditating.
Weird concept right?
It’s similar to working out in the gym. When you’re lifting weights you’re actually breaking down muscle and getting weaker. If you’re familiar with weight lifting, you’ll know you’re always strongest at the beginning of your workout. That’s why guys will always do their max before they’re too tired.
You build muscle when you’re NOT at the gym.
Same goes for meditation, all the benefit comes when you carry that calming awareness to other areas of your life.
Another thing to consider is that during the meditation practice you’re making new neural pathways for your brain. You’ll start to have stressful thoughts but the moment of truth is when you decide to let them go. You’re literally retraining your brain to think and be used in a whole new way.
It’s going to take time and practice.
It’s important you learn the real value of meditation so you have a foundation for your daily discipline. If you don’t see the long term emotional, spiritual and physical value of meditation, what’s going to give you the discipline to do it when you really don’t feel like it?
As I said before you’re creating new neural pathways in your brain each time you sit and quiet your mind. You’re going to be tested with stressful thoughts and thoughts about things you need to add to your to do list.
Whatever you do, don’t get up off your mat!
Let the thoughts come and then let them go. If you’re reactive to every thought you have then you’ll train your mind and emotions to be reactive to thoughts as they occur in your daily life. Meditation helps us to create a gap between the thoughts in our minds and our subsequent reaction to them. When we can step back and create space between the two, that’s where the magic happens.
You can start to realize that you are not your thoughts. You can take a deep breath and take a moment to decide how you want to react or even react at all. We don’t have to believe everything we think. If you think of something that’s critically important then if it’s that important, it’ll come back to you after you’re done right?
I mean if it’s THAT important how can we just forget about it.
Creating that space where we can be the observers of our thoughts helps us to decide how much energy and life force we want to invest to each situation in our lives.
I hope these meditation tips have been helpful to you.
I’m curious if you meditate and what benefits you’ve noticed over time?
Comment below or continue the discussion in our forum!
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