I don’t know about you, but I’m crazy. If I sit back and observe the thoughts going through my brain in any given minute of the day, I am certifiable. Random thoughts come and go through my head like circus performers:
I’m hungry…What time is it?….What should I have for lunch?….I have to remember to call Elaine!… Let me check my Facebook…Oh, it’s Sara’s birthday today!… I gotta pee…
It only gets worse as I factor in the constant outside distractions like rings, pings, and beeps. It is said that Buddha described these thoughts as monkeys and this human condition as monkey mind. I cannot think of a more apt depiction for my untamed beasts within.
What’s wrong with monkey mind?
It is inevitable that we will have millions of thoughts on any given day. This does not mean that we have to give all of our power to them. We do not have to believe them and we do not have to act on them. However, I’ve noticed that it’s my natural inclination to take these thoughts as truths. In reality, we can choose which thoughts to believe and act on, but as is often true in life, this is much easier said than done. It is especially difficult for me to put some space between my thoughts and reactions when I have not been making time for myself. I tend to be irritable and reactive when I’m fatigued, stressed, and busy. Those mischievous monkeys love nothing better because they know they are in total control.
What are the benefits of meditation?
I think meditation is something that has changed my life in ways I cannot quite explain. I guess it’s like love in that regard.
I will try, though.
Through meditation I’ve learned to be more centered and present. I’ve learned to trust myself and my instincts: that little voice inside my head that I never regret listening to and always regret ignoring. It helps me to be more proactive instead of reactive. It reminds me to pause and reflect before choosing a course of action, especially in stressful times.
Meditation has made me more accepting of myself, everyone around me, and everyday circumstances. Meditation has taught me gratitude.
It has retaught me how to be still.
Meditation helps me to remember that I am not the sum of my thoughts. I am all that exists in the spaces in between them. In a world where we are constantly surrounded by people, yet more alone than ever, meditation teaches me and reminds me of who I am.
How do you meditate?
I usually meditate first thing in the morning as soon as I sit up in bed. If I stay lying down, I will surely fall back asleep. Most would recommend putting your feet on the floor as well, but I keep mine covered up as I awaken. There are many different ways to meditate, but I mostly choose just to breathe and focus on my breath going in and out. I try to make sure I’m breathing from deep in my belly and not shallowly. This calms any voices in my head greatly. If thoughts do arise, I just allow them to run their course. When they’re ready, they will leave just as unexpectedly as they came in. I can only do this practice for a couple minutes at a time in the morning before the thoughts overtake and lead to action: checking my phone, getting ready for the day, and doing all the little things that can seem so important.
This practice sets my tone for the rest of the day. It reminds me to stop and take a moment in those instances when I feel that I can’t, for example, when someone’s asking me for a favor that I’m not sure I want to do or someone has triggered me and I want to put some space between the stimulus and my reaction. When I haven’t been meditating, I act on autopilot. When I have been, my actions are more likely to come from a place of true choice.
I have tried a few different forms of meditation but focusing on my breath in silent lack of contemplation is what works for me. Some people enjoy nature sounds or soft music in the background. Some people like focusing on and repeating a mantra. The key is to experiment and find what works for you. There is no one right answer. This may even vary over time or from day to day.
There are many free apps and YouTube videos with guided meditations and helpful suggestions. Experiment with whatever resources you can find and discover what works for you. You might even be surprised with what resonates with you!
The changes you’ll notice may take time to present themselves, but I believe they’ll be worth it. It will probably always be difficult to keep those monkeys quiet, but I do believe it is time well spent.
What are your thoughts on meditation? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!