I got an email from a student yesterday asking me about her meditation practice. She said whenever she sits her mind is full of thoughts and she doesn’t know if what she is doing is even meditation.
Here were some of my thoughts for her.
I also struggled with this in the beginning of my meditation practice. I thought in order to meditate I had to have a completely empty mind. I have learned that it is less important to stop the thoughts and is it more important to rest in the Self beyond the thoughts. I learned to distinguish between me thinking and hoping from one story line to the next story line totally engaged with the story my mind was weaving compared to being the witnesser of the thoughts and the story. When I am the witness I can let the thoughts be there and observe them. This witness perspective puts us in contact with The Self. I have learned that when I step back from thoughts and let myself observe them I am the Self. It has taken a lot of practice but now most days when I sit to meditate I realize that it’s not Kim that is thinking, instead I am the one who knows and witnessing the thinking. This cultivates a feeling of calmness and clarity within myself.
There is a school of thought that says the idea of meditation is to not think! and to have an empty mind. But that didn’t work with me. Instead I would think “Kim empty your mind” “you’re talking to yourself about empting your mind so your mind obviously isn’t empty” “great now my foot is a sleep” “don’t think about your foot, let it go, empty your mind” “now my whole leg hurts, I should change positions I can probably empty my mind better if I am comfortable”….and on and on it goes. I connect so much more with this witnesser approach to connect with my true Self the one that goes beyond thoughts and feelings. I can observe a similar dialogue “ok Kim time to mediate” “Kim is talking to herself” “Kim’s foot has fallen asleep” “Kim wants to change positions” “Kim is feeling frustrated”… When I am not engaging in the thoughts and taking them so personal they gradually fade away. That doesn’t mean my mind is empty sometimes it is, but often it’s not. But I experience a break from my mind and a sense of simplicity because I have stopped engaging the story line.
How do you know if you are actually meditating?
I strive to sit for at least 20 minutes 2x a day. Some days I sit and it’s awesome and I am connected with the Self the whole time and I go so deep. Other times I sit and the next thing I know my meditation timer goes off and I feel like I was just talking to myself the whole time. I consider it meditation though because I was making an effort to turn my attention inside. If you’re making the subtle effort to let go of thoughts, or to observe thoughts as they come up without getting engaged in them, you are meditating. If you are focusing your awareness toward the inner Self, you are meditating.
Meditation is like playing an instrument. The instrument of your soul. It takes practice + practice + practice + perseverance.