I wouldn’t exactly say that I am an expert on meditation… just that I’ve dabbled. I’ve taken some meditation classes and read some books and lots of articles. I have also practiced meditating. But… to say that I am an expert… well… how do you know, really? I can’t cite the history and evolution of meditation… which seems to be a sure sign of expertise. I can, however, tell you what I think about this interesting practice from my own perspective, which is what I’d like to do now.
When I was first introduced to meditation, it was for stress relief. Unfortunately, the act of trying to meditate can actually be stressful. At least, it is when you think there’s a “right” way to do it. The thing I’ve learned over time is that I can set myself up for a successful meditation ’til I’m blue in the face, and sometimes I will drop right into a state of peace and other times it will elude me completely – even if things are seemingly the same on the outside. I’ve come to realize that, at least for me, part of the process is the discipline of attempting to quiet my mind, regardless of how quiet it actually gets or how well it goes. When I took a 7-week mindfulness meditation class, the consistency of attending class weekly and the daily commitment to practice for at least 30 minutes had a huge effect on my mental, emotional and physical self. The regularity of the practice, regardless of how “effective” or “correctly” I did each individual session, had a profound impact.
Here is what I think to be the key to meditation… showing up. We run on autopilot every single day. We are constantly thinking of what has passed and what is to come… and rarely spend much time in this moment. When we attempt to quiet our minds, what we find is that this small task is almost impossible… at first. We sit down and get quiet… and then our monkey mind goes wild! “Is this right?” “Am I supposed to feel something?” “How do I know if it’s working?” “How long has it been?” “How will I know when it’s over?” Has it been enough time?” … and that’s just the first 30 seconds of the practice!
I was reading a book by Marshall Goldsmith where he talks about active listening. He gives an exercise to help you build your active listening capability… but I actually think this is a great exercise in mindfulness. Close your eyes and count to 50 with one simple goal – don’t let another thought intrude into your mind. Concentrate on maintaining the count. Marshall goes on to explain, “This may sound like a concentration test, but it’s really a listening exercise. After all, if you can’t listen to yourself (someone you presumably like and respect) as you count to fifty, how will you ever be able to listen to another person?” I LOVE that! The 50 count exercise, as well as the attempt at meditation for beginners, shows us how distracting is our own internal chatter. So, if you want to try this yourself, close your eyes and start counting to 50. If a thought enters your mind, simply take note that a thought has entered… turn your attention back to your breath… and begin again.
So, this begs the question, am I actually meditating or am I just noticing the copious amounts of internal chatter? YES! I believe that noticing the internal chatter… and more to the point… recognizing that at our essence, we are not the internal chatter, but rather, we are the one who notices the internal chatter, is at the heart of meditation. Meditation is a noticing of the mental mind by the soul. As we begin to show up regularly, and we take the time to separate from the internal chatter… to notice and release… notice and release… we will begin to gain more moments of quiet. And if we can take it one step further… we begin to appreciate that all the internal chatter that fills our auto-pilot world, most moments of every single day, is just thought… thought made up mostly of unconscious beliefs that run like a broken record in our minds. We can begin to separate from those thoughts and start to appreciate the potential recognition of self as separate from thoughts.
But I’m getting ahead of myself… the first step is to simply set aside some time to be still… to be quiet… to notice your thoughts and to recognize that you are separate from your thoughts… you are the one who notices your thoughts. Let go of judgement… release all expectations of what meditation is or looks like… open to the possibility that becoming a better listener of yourself can be good for both you and the world! Let me know what you think!!
Love and laughter to you! ~Rashel