I’ve had what you could call an irregular meditation practice over the years. Some points in my life I’ve been all out enthusiastic, motivated & determined and able to sit every single morning before I begin my day, and sometimes it’s just deep slow breathing when I drive. Right now I’m in one of those all out enthusiastic, motivated & determined modes and naturally, my meditation practice is deepening.
However, I’ve been particularly bewildered and amused lately by how often I find myself in a worse mood during, or after my meditation practice, than when I started. Isn’t that the opposite of what’s supposed to happen?!
To my own relief, today I recognized the cause: my thinking. You see, anytime we slow down long enough to hear our own thoughts, it’s like the mind realizes it has a chance to throw every single thought at us in rapid-fire mode. And as research shows, up to 70% of our thoughts tend to be negative, so by sitting down to “listen” to my thoughts, I’m pretty much giving my mind free reign to fill me up with the negativity. Yikes! How is this happening? What can I do?
It’s all about mind control-by your Observer Self. Whether we are intentionally thinking the thoughts, allowing ourselves to go down the rabbit hole with the thoughts that arrive, or simply letting the thoughts come on auto pilot, we actually have the ability to choose to stop this, or not.
Sometimes we love going down the rabbit hole with our thoughts because a part of us is addicted to the drama that’s been created in our minds. Sometimes we’re thinking about our to-do list and thoughts about what needs to be done start to overwhelm us. And sometimes our mind is so used to having free reign that it goes where it wants, when it wants, and we get in the habit of believing that we have no control over it.
The truth is, we are always in control of our thoughts; we are always choosing to entertain them or not. Yes, even when we feel like we are a victim of our thoughts and we have no control over them, that is what we are choosing to believe, and how we are choosing to be with our thoughts.
The task at hand, and the art of meditation, is to remind ourselves that we are in control of the mind. First comes the awareness of the thoughts interrupting your meditation, which comes from creating the Observer Self who simply observes the thoughts as they fill up your mind. You can even mentally label the thoughts as you notice them: "thinking." And just like a puppy, you will probably have to tell your mind several times that it’s not in control, that you don’t have to think these thoughts right now, and generally, to be quiet!
Many teachers have said, “don’t believe everything you think.“ and with good reason, for problems occur when we believe our thoughts. Our thoughts are very narrow-minded and do not take into account the vastness of who we really are. Feel free to be rude and interrupt your mind and it’s thinking, especially when you’re meditating, especially when you notice it taking you down an ugly dark rabbit hole of abysmal thoughts and feelings that make you feel like crap. Who wants to make that their daily reality? Nobody!
So when your mind wanders, and it will, use your Observer Self and bring it back to focus on either your breath, a word or phrase that you were repeating, or whatever else you like to use to keep yourself in the present moment.
That is why the practice, the consistent practice, of meditation is so valuable. Without it we run around thinking that we have no control over our thoughts, which means we have no control over our moods. But with meditation, we begin to understand that we are always at choice for what we think and when we think. And, with dedicated cultivation, that elusive quiet and inner peace really can find their way into our minds. It is up to us to choose the peace and stillness over the drama of our thoughts.
Remember: Peace begins with me!
So today I invite you to take a few minutes to train yourself to be thoughtless! Let me know how it goes for you.