Are you looking to de-stress? To calm the F. down? To take a chill pill and relax?
Well, if so, then meditation is not really going to work out for you.
Meditation can totally bring relaxation and a sense of calm. It’s awesome in helping you slow down and find your center.
But if you want to zone out, then what you’re looking for is a zone-out tool.
You can accomplish that in a gazillion different ways.
Maybe it’s going on a tour of fantasy land through a guided meditation where you listen to a narrator prompting you to take a walk through an emerald forest, or sit on the golden sand of a warm sunny beach. Those exercises can be fabulous for helping you to let go of stress.
But that’s not meditation.
That’s imagining. It’s using the mind to create more dreams.
There’s nothing wrong with it, just please be clear on what it really is.
Meditation is about focusing your mind in a particular way. It’s using the mind as a muscle. It’s building strength through mental discipline. It’s concentration.
All of that may sound like WORK, and it kind of is!! Until you get used to it.
Sometimes you will only encounter more and more thinking. You’ll be sitting there, trying to quiet the mind, and all that will happen is distraction. You’ll feel like you’re fighting yourself, of you’ll assume that you just totally suck at this and you may even feel like giving up,and abandoning your attempts at a meditation practice.
But please don’t! Those experiences are totally common and as long as you keep at it — returning to the point of concentration, gently setting aside the thinking again, and again, and again as many times as you have to, to continue with the practice you’ve set out for yourself…. then guess what? You’re meditating!
It may feel like a battle when you’re sitting there struggling with yourself. And that’s OK.
Just don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t let it stress you out. You’re trying, and it may seem like you’re failing, but really you’re not. Meditation is not easy! You’ve going against the stream of thoughts that you’ve allowed to roar through you for how many years till now?
Over time, you’ll find that it’s easier, and it becomes less fraught, and less effortful. But it’s going to still require the discipline of focus.
This type of focused concentration practice, where you are gentle with yourself but you don’t indulge. Where you are determined to do it even when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, or that you’re not getting any better. This is true meditation.
There’s plenty of other things you can do with your mind that may also be enjoyable and gratifying for you. But if you’re laying down to meditate, then you’re almost definitely not meditating. You’re doing something else for relaxation. If you’re going on a journey in your mind, or trying to open yourself up to your spirit guides, or just sitting there with your eyes closed with your mind just as active as it is when they are open…. then you’re not meditating. You’re doing something else, and whatever that is may be enjoyable and worthwhile for you, but it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to help you discover the Truth of who you are: your beingness beyond thought.
There are many, many techniques available to explore if you’re interested in knowing the Truth. A regular practice of focused meditation — ideally using the same technique every day for an extended period of time (like, at least six months if not much longer) — is the fastest ticket I know to uncovering this Truth.
But most people simply aren’t interested, and if you find yourself drawn to different styles of engagement with the mind then that’s totally cool! Everyone’s path is their own. What worked for one person is not necessarily going to work for anyone else. For me, a more rules-based approach, where I learned one specific technique and committed to it as my exclusive practice for a long time, with the understanding that it was “the” way to do it, was really helpful. Now I realize that it’s not the only way. But being told when I started that it was, was super useful for me at that stage, and I’ve seen others respond well to that too. A focused concentration technique will make the mind strong, and it will help you become a better perceiver. It will clear your mind — not muddy it. This can only be valuable.
The sages and Enlightened ones can offer techniques and training and teach you practices that they have found effective. It’ll be up to you to engage with a practice that resonates with you, to give you what you are seeking right now.
If, along the way, you decide that you want to explore other styles or practices of visualization or dreaming or “medicine” then take the path that interests you. You are the only one who can decide what the right step is to meet the goals that you have.
If that’s not something you’ve considered before, it may be worth exploring. What are your goals? Why are you interested in meditation? Write them down! Investigate! That way, you’ll have a very useful scorecard to use as you explore teachers and techniques and practices. Obviously you’ll want to be prepared for your goals to change as you take further steps. But making it explicit, and thinking through what your interests are, from a deep and personal level, can be a very helpful exercise to complete.