“Meditation means letting go of our baggage, letting go of all the pre-rehearsed stories and inner-dialogue that we’ve grown so attached to.” -Andy Puddicombe, Headspace co-founder
We all, at some time or another, travel through life believing that we can think our way through our problems. We believe we can find the answers that will provide us with security.
Yet the reality of uncertainty is it puts us in a very uncomfortable vulnerable place. There are too many questions that cannot be easily answered at a conceptual level.
So what can we do to help us find a place of peace, calm and clarity?
There are many ways to work with the mind. One of the most effective that gives clarity in challenging times is sitting meditation.
Understanding how meditation can help
When I first started practicing meditation, I thought I wasn’t good at it. It took some time to appreciate that I had resistance to just being here now.
Just being did not provide any kind of certainty. Nonetheless when we learn how to relax into the present moment, we learn how to relax with the unknown.
Meditation teaches us how to connect to life directly, so we can truly experience the present moment, free from conceptual ideas.
It brings us into direct raw contact with our experience in each and every moment of our life- The good, the bad and the ugly.
Meditation is not an escape from the reality of life. At times it can seem very difficult. It can make us question if we are doing it correctly.
Boredom, restlessness, an over active mind, and maybe pain throughout the body. These are all common experiences we will encounter from time to time on our meditation journey.
Yet, by becoming the observer we start to learn from our experience.
Gaining familiarity with our mind
It’s worth noting Tibetan word for meditation is gom or ghom. This translates to becoming familiar with our mind. As such, the practice is one that encourages gaining insight and mastery over the mind.
You’re learning to open to whatever life presents us with. It’s about coming back to being right here now. It’s about opening to the difficulties and joys we face through life.
What are we thinking? What are we feeling?
Some meditation styles seek to attain some extraordinary state. Some seek to transcend above the difficulties of life. But, what I seek to explain is an area of meditation that I’ve been trained in.
This method allows us to cultivate insight into our experience. With this new found clarity we are able to live life fully with no fears.
To achieve that outcome I have found there are 2 key ingredients that all meditators need to consistently connect with. Each builds on the other and anchors us firmly 100% in the present moment.
1. Resolute intent
The first thing we need to do whenever we start to meditate is cultivate and nurture a resolute intent with ourselves.
What does this mean?
When we sit to begin our meditation we commit ourselves purposeful to the task at hand. We become determined, and unwavering in our intent to allow ourselves to experience and learn from what’s happening in that moment.
Our mind maybe scattered with racing thoughts. Maybe we are feeling agitated or angry. Maybe we are feeling anxious or fearful. Whatever arises in that present moment we need to be resolute and determined to stay with that experience.
Typically, when things are not going the way we would like we habitually offer opinions, and judgments. “I can’t meditate!” “Why is this happening to me?”
What’s important during these challenging times is to appreciate the need for unwavering compassionate commitment to stay with whatever arises for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, a half hour, or an hour.
A resolute commitment means we resist the urge to judge. We let go.
We just stay with the experience. As we gradually learn to do this more and more in meditation, we become more able to endure through all kinds of difficult situations away from our mediation practice.
We become more skilled at dealing with situations we find challenging.
Awareness is another key ingredient that needs to be cultivated through meditation.
But what does awareness mean from a meditation perspective and why is it important?
The untrained mind is tainted with biases and preferences due to conditioning from previous life experiences. In an attempt to keep us safe our mind is constantly scanning the environment for possible dangers.
Judgements, opinions and decisions that influence our thoughts, feelings and emotions are a direct result of our minds interruption of what it sees as reality. It’s a perception that may not always serve us well through challenging times.
Alternatively, awareness cultivated through meditation offers us the opportunity to step away at those times when we start to see ourselves losing control, or becoming judgemental to life circumstances.
We step into a space of awareness; a space where we merely observe how the mind behaves, and where we experience the present moment … without thinking, without distraction.
Psychologist and author Tasha Eurich describes self-awareness as “the ability to see ourselves clearly — to understand who we are, how others see us, and how we fit into the world around us.”
By developing this ability to catch ourselves we stop the beginnings of a negative chain reaction that limits our ability to experience happiness or connect with others.
We begin to see clearly without a conceptual bias. With regular practice we start to see what we do. You see that you mind replays the same tapes again and again.
Meditation helps us clearly see ourselves and the habitual patterns that limit our life. We begin to see our opinions clearly. We see our judgments. We see our defence mechanisms.
Meditation deepens your understanding of yourself.
Take away message
Meditation is a transformative process that has its challenges. You never really feel that you ever arrive. Yet you feel that you relax just enough in a period of time to see what’s really going on within.
By taking the time through meditation to experience our emotional distress by focusing on nurturing resolute intent and awareness we shake up our habitual ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.
Meditation loosens our conditioning and the way we prolong our suffering.
Do you meditate?
How does it help you?
If you need help or would like to join a future meditation group let me know!