One of the biggest challenges people have with meditation is that they “struggle to quieten the mind.” This is by far one of the most common things I hear from people when asking them about their meditation practice. What if there was a simple and easy way to help overcome this idea that meditation is some difficult practice? Well this is exactly what this post provides.
Meditation often carries with it this idea of “blissing out” or “zoning out”, having zero thoughts going through the mind and enjoying this zen like state. The truth is, most of the time spent in meditation is spent constantly bringing the mind back to the present moment (or whatever else is the focus of the meditation.)
People think it’s all geometric fractal light shows and crystal grid chakra bliss states and peace and quiet that goes on in one’s mind when they’re meditating.
In reality it goes a little something like this; You sit on your cushion or stand in your pose, bring your focus to the breath, you get in the hang of it for a few moments, then you start thinking about the conversation you had earlier in the day where so and so pissed you off. You remember, “oh that’s right, I’m supposed to be focusing on my breath.” So you bring your focus back to your breath for some time. “ahh, this is nice..” Before long, you’re mind is off again thinking about how uncomfortable this position you’re in is. “Oh snap! I’ve forgotten that my focus is the breath.” So you bring your focus back once again to the breath. Moments later, you’re thinking about how hungry you are and you’re daydreaming about what you will make for your next meal, salivating about how delicious it will be, then you start feeling guilty, anxious, frustrated or self conscious that “you’re not doing this meditation right.” You take a deep breath and resolve yourself that you’ll keep focused on the breath for longer than a few moments this time. You do so, for some time, and it feels ok, “surely there’s more to it than this.” you think to yourself, “hey I’m doing it, I’m doing it,” you get excited, carried away with the tiny few moments of quiet you’ve managed to keep focused for. Only to then realise your focus is supposed to be on your breath. “doh!”
And on and on it goes. All the above has occurred and not even five minutes has passed by. You’re supposed to be spending thirty or sixty minutes here. And wow! All that has gone on. It’s no wonder people get disheartened and want to give up.
One of the best reframes I’ve come across when it comes to meditation is to think of it not as meditation, but as contemplation. Thinking of it as such instantly reminds us that we’re supposed to be paying attention. It automatically puts us in a receptive state. In this contemplative state our sense organs and perception are geared to be curious, alert, and attentive. And most awesomely – when we’re in this state time flies. When we’re contemplating something we’re simply paying attention to, being aware of and curious about whatever it is. We’re watching it, waiting for it to convey something to take notice of, be aware of, or of something of value to us. This contemplative state makes us open, receptive and ready to receive input from our environment.
Applying this reframe to my daily practice has been one of the biggest breakthroughs I’ve had throughout my mindfulness practice journey. It has made life so much easier when it comes to my practice and has increased the enjoyment levels of the practice ten fold. It’s also helped the time fly and the mind focus incredibly. I invite you to try this simple reframe on during your practice. Shift from “okay, now I am meditating.” to “I’m simply contemplating, and paying attention to/listening.” And see how it works for you.
Actions you can take right now to implement this idea
– Sit down or stand up and focus on the breath, your mantra, a candle flame, a feeling, principle or idea, your presence, the observer, the now whatever it is you have as your focus. And begin noticing it’s characteristics, listening to it, taking it all in, observing it.
– Play with the idea now of switching from meditating on your point of focus, to contemplating it. Notice the shifts in yourself and your perception on how the two different ideas effect your experience of your practice.
– Practice moving from contemplation, to meditation, to simply observing or noticing, to listening, to being. And see how the different ideas sit with you and which ones feel the most ‘right’ for you.
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