Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Beginning Meditation

Do you regularly meditate?  If so I am sure you are already aware of the advantages of meditation.  If not, perhaps it is about time you started.

As a quick reminder, meditation can bring you so many benefits.  It can significantly improve your mental and physical health.  It can slow the aging process.  It can make you happier.  It can make you far more productive.  It can help you see where you are going wrong, perhaps in your work, perhaps in your relationships, perhaps in one or more of your hobbies, and how to put right whatever it is that is going wrong.  It can make you calmer and less stressed.  It can help you concentrate better.  It can help you work better.  It can lead you to much greater self-awareness.  Combine it with the techniques of affirmation and manifestation and it can greatly accelerate your progress towards your goals.  Need I go on?

Some people argue that they don't have time to meditate.  If this is you, forgive me but I have to tell you that is complete rubbish!  Whatever tasks you have to complete, I can pretty much guarantee that regular meditation will help you complete them better and faster.  Just 10 or 15 minutes of meditation every day will save you more than the 10 or 15 minutes you spend doing it.  If you are too busy, that is not a reason not to meditate - it is a very good reason why you SHOULD meditate!

Another reason people often give for not meditating is that their mind quickly wanders off and therefore there is no point.  If that is the way you feel, rather than "there is no point" you are actually completely missing the point!  One of the really good benefits of regular meditation practice is that it helps you to train your mind not to wander off.  If, when you first start meditating, you find your mind is difficult to control, don't regard that as a reason not to meditate - it is a very good reason why you SHOULD meditate.

"But if my mind wanders off the moment I start trying to meditate, then I will be sitting there just wasting my time won't I?"  This is a very common question.

The answer to this question is "no, you will not be wasting your time - as long as you have the desire to improve your meditation technique".

How can you bring your wandering mind under your control?  You do this by not worrying about the fact that it is NOT under your control - yet!  Do not try to rein it in.  Do not get cross with yourself.  The more you attempt to rein it the wilder it will become, and the crosser you will get.  You will be setting yourself up for failure.

Just try this little exercise for a moment.  When was the last time you thought about a pink elephant?  A few minutes ago?  I am pretty sure that is not the case!  A few days ago?  Maybe, but probably not even then.  Probably at least a few months ago.  So if you haven't thought about a pink elephant for weeks or months, how difficult should it be not to think about one for the next two minutes?  Ridiculously easy, surely!  Try it now.  Sit quietly and for the next two minutes do not think about a pink elephant.

Have you tried this?  How did it go?  Let me guess - for the past two minutes thoughts of pink elephants have been popping in and out of your mind.  Not just once or twice, but throughout most or all of the two minutes!  Am I right?  If I am wrong, then congratulations - go to the front of the class!  But certainly most of my readers will have found this exercise simply impossible.

When the thought of a pink elephant came into your mind, what did you do about it?  Did you try to stop it?  If so, that was your big mistake.  What you should have done was simply notice it was there but not thought any more about it.  By trying to stop it you had to think about it, so that is a self-defeating exercise.  Again, be aware the thought was there, but don't get cross, don't try to stop it, just recognise it is there and allow it to move on.  You still won't win the prize for not thinking about a pink elephant, but nobody will.  What you will have done is reduce thoughts of pink elephants to a minimum, with no fuss, no mental anguish, no anger at your wayward mind.

Why did I introduce this silly exercise?

Because this is exactly the way you will handle all the obstacles your mind tries to put in the way of your meditation practice.  Do not try to stop them, to block them, to make them go away.  If you try to do any of this they will have won.  Instead of focusing on your meditation you will be focused on the interruptions.  Simply acknowledge the interruption is there but do not react to it at all.  Don't feel guilty either.  Recognize that as you start meditating this is bound to happen and that your responsibility is simply to be aware it has happened, and nothing more.  That is the only way to bring your mind under your control.

What you will find when you do this is that gradually those interrupting thoughts and feelings will seem to recede into the distance.  They will still be there, but because you are not reacting to them they will become less and less noticeable.

At this point, though, there is a big danger.  Well, two big dangers!

The first danger is you may want to congratulate yourself on controlling your wayward mind.  Don't!  The urge to congratulate yourself is, itself, an interruption of your meditation!  It may seem obvious now, but it is not so obvious when you are in the middle of your meditation.  So when you feel this urge, just acknowledge it is there but do not react to it.  Allow it to enter your mind but just notice it is there without acting on it.

The second danger is a false sense of security.  Meditation is a technique that brings your very powerful mind under your control.  Your mind does not like that and will do anything it can to stop you controlling it.  One technique it will use is to appear to have backed down, giving you that false sense of security.  Once you are settled into that state it will then return, appearing even more wayward than it did in the first place.  Many people give up at this point.  Don't give up.  The fact that it is using this technique shows it is running scared.  It can see you are succeeding and therefore it is trying even harder to make you fail.  Just keep doing what you have done from the beginning - be aware of the new attack but do not react to it.  Do not try to stop it.  Do not get angry with it.  Just be aware and continue your meditation.

Use this technique and you will find it easier and easier to meditate.  You may never completely stop the interruptions your mind tries to throw into your meditation, but they will no longer disturb you, and that attitude robs them of all their power.

If you already meditate but are frequently irritated by mental interruptions, you should find this technique of very great help.  If you do not meditate yet, and have not started because you are afraid you won't be able to maintain a "clear" mind, you should now realize that is nothing to worry about at all.  Start meditating regularly from now on and reap all the benefits I have listed and more!