I was doing it wrong, that’s why it wasn’t “working”.
Have you ever tried meditating? Have you ever heard it as “clearing the mind of thoughts”?
Well, this is what I was trying to do. I heard somewhere that mediation was about emptying one’s mind of thoughts. It sounded easy enough to me. Just. Stop. Thinking.
Woah! I was wrong! That is not easy. Thoughts are slippery little things and spill into your mind whether you want them to or not. It is practically impossible to “empty” your mind of thoughts!
What I was trying to do was create a blank space in my mind. A “void” with not a thought in it. Like placing my awareness inside a bubble in my mind and protecting the boundaries or walls of the bubble with my will. Wherever there was a “leak” and a thought would be threatening to enter, I would plug it with my awareness and push the thought out. This was constant and often times the thoughts would tumble into my mind despite my efforts.
I playing defence. I was going to stand my ground on this internal battlefield. Me the good guy, thoughts the bad guy. And, by golly, I was going to win. I was going to master meditation by emptying my mind of thoughts.
I practiced mediation like this for a few days. I’d get in my mental bubble and fight the thoughts back. “Hold the line! Protect the void!”
Mediation was exhausting. It was energy draining. I didn’t see the purpose…and it wasn’t working. I wasn’t becoming more calm or self-aware; I was only aware of my thoughts and the work it took to hold them back.
Then I learned that I was meditating wrong.
I was using forced concentration, a rigid focused attention, trying to keep my mind blank. The thing is, I was using thought, holding onto thought tightly, to keep the thoughts away! Kind of the opposite to what meditation is about.
Mediation is not about keeping your mind a “void” or an internal blank space.
Meditation or “clearing your mind of thought” is about allowing thoughts to come and go, with no attachment to them. It’s about removing the log jam of thoughts in your mental thought flow.
When you hold onto a thought, you don’t allow it to pass through and that can cause a mental log jam and contributes to emotional upheaval.
For a theatrical example, you’re driving along and someone cuts you off. You think, “He cut me off.” Now you can allow this thought to pass through you and it’s over with, or you can get attached to it. “He cut me off…Who does he think he is? Didn’t he see me here? What does that make me? A nothing?! Well, I’ll show him who he messed with! He picked the wrong guy on the wrong day!” Honk!!
The practice of mediation is about learning to be aware that you have thoughts but not getting attached to them.
Meditation is like standing on a river bank watching the river flow. You see a thought “log” float by…and you let it float by.
Can you let your thoughts float by?
Mediation is a great practice. But sometimes you don’t have time to do it. Get tools to use on-the-go during your busy day that, like meditation, help you be more calm, composed, and self-regulated, saving you energy, time, and effort. Start now with one-on-one coaching.
Here’s to conquering stress.
The Stress Experts
Sign up to receive inspiration, skills, tools, and tough love right in your inbox each week. Don't worry, we won't share your email address and we're not going to fill up your inbox with junk.