What to Think About When Meditating
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Takeaways: To start seeing the benefits you want to get out of meditation, you need to (1) allow your thoughts to slow down before attempting to meditate. (2) Find a routine that allows you to stay present. (3) Understand that your emotions that come in the form of thoughts are simply events. (4) Refrain from judging yourself.
What to think about when meditating is a question that most people have a lot of trouble trying to answer. You may wonder how exactly people manage to cultivate the discipline to sit down for hours meditating – with no more external stimulation than the peaceful quiet surrounding them. What exactly do they think about when meditating? Or more importantly, how do we manage to become like them; peaceful and tolerant amidst the chaotic world that surrounds us? How do we answer this incredibly thought-provoking question of “How to meditate effectively?”
Step One: Allow Your Thoughts to Slow Down
Before you delve into this wonderful art of centering yourself and coming to the door of greater peace and enlightenment, it is important to understand that meditation does not come to you all at once just because you took a second to sit and close your eyes. Your mind is an extremely powerful tool, capable of great feats under normal conditions.
It is almost impossible to shut down, with all of its wonderful intricacies and possibilities embedded in it. What you really want to achieve while meditating is to get to know and recognize your thoughts by seeing them, which in turn slows down the pace at which they move.
There’s this common misconception about meditation – thinking that we “do” something when we make the effort to meditate. The truth is, we don’t really “think about” or “do” anything when meditating.
∴ We simply come face to face with the constant internal movement that we never take the time to get to know.
But before we can really bring our attention to the constant movement of the mind – watching our own internal lives, we have to allow our thoughts to slow down so that we can pay attention to what is actually happening.
Before engaging in meditation, take the time to enjoy an activity that will quiet you internally and allow you to relax. Some good exercises are listening to classical or other relaxing music. Even just having a cup of tea while not engaging in another activity does the job.
Step Two: Concentrate On Your Breathing
Once your mind isn’t moving quite as swiftly, this beautiful opportunity to watch what is happening presents itself.
The next step is to realize that meditating is not about forcing your mind to think in a particular direction. Rather, it is about allowing it to think, while seeing that you’re not actively making it happen.
This is a difficult demand, and for that reason, we need to find an anchor.
To actually see that your thoughts simply happen without your own real control, you need to have something to hold on to that will allow you to stay where you are and not move wherever your thought decides to go.
One great tool you have to hold on to is your own breathing.
Your breath is in constant movement – back and forth between inhalation and exhalation. You never “think” to breathe, your breathing simply happens.
Our thoughts are similar, only we never take the time to get to know our wandering minds. Your breath doesn’t wander the way your thoughts do – there is simply inhaling and exhaling. By placing your attention in the process of breathing, you have a grip on something based in reality. When your mind begins to wander into imagination, your breath will keep you based in reality if you can stay with it.
Step Three: Watch Your Emotional Thoughts Without Judgement
This may sound absurd to you but the truth is, meditating is not about forgetting your thoughts, good or bad, and locking them up in the deep abyss of your mind. Meditation is also definitely not about transforming you into an emotionless being, devoid of feelings. What you need to do is view your thoughts without judgment, whether positive or negative, let them be.
Remember, your thoughts may define you to some extent, but they do not have to control you. It is imperative that you not feel guilty over how you reacted or behaved when particular thoughts arise, because the point of meditation is to ultimately better understand the way your mind works.
We can think of our thoughts as events, just as factual as getting in a car accident. The thoughts themselves simply happen, but we are the relationship to the happening thoughts.
Here are some ways to deal with your thoughts when you encounter them:
- Think of your thoughts as floating balloons. When a thought occurs, view it objectively. Do not feel the need to justify your feelings, just understand that it is a thought and it does not have to control the quality of life you feel in any given moment.
- Once done with the thought, do not dwell on it and simply allow the balloon to float away.
- Bring your attention and focus back to the space between your breathing and allow the process to repeat itself.
Step 4: Coming Back To The Present Moment
Now after practicing the first few steps, you may soon realise that thoughts about the past may not be the only thing in your mind. You will struggle with keeping still – you’ll think about past events that happened, how you reacted, how you could have reacted.
You’ll think about future events that may or may not happen and how you might respond to those future events. You will think about how much longer you should continue before you get up. What’s important is remembering that these thoughts are simply in your imagination, happening without your conscious involvement.
You are not the thoughts but rather, the relationship to those thoughts as they arise. Once you truly see your lack of control and take the seeing of thoughts as merely events happening inside of you which you don’t have to identify with, you’re coming closer to what you truly are.
Simply bring your mind back to the present by shifting your focus to your five senses (four if your eyes are closed) and how they are interacting with your surroundings. Feel the air around you – is it cool, damp or warm? Let your skin absorb the texture of the very fabric that you are sitting on. Doing this would very effectively allow your mind to be brought back to the present and you can then go about focusing on your breathing
⇒ Practice these tips until they become second nature to you
The benefits of meditation aren’t “merely” clarity and peace of mind. Science has shown there are true biological effects that meditation has on your physical body. Once you grow in your meditation practice with these steps, you will soon realize that meditation isn’t “difficult.” You never really “think about” anything when meditating, you simply come into contact with different, more internal parts of yourself. Make the commitment to practice these steps every day for 10 minutes at a time. Before you know it, meditation will become your bliss and sanctuary, allowing you to improve your quality of life as a whole.
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