The short answer to this question is that I try to observe my breath, while imagining my thoughts as separate from myself, as if they were floating past on a projector screen in an empty room where I am the only audience.
But of course since this is a blog post I also have a way longer answer!
When I first started practicing meditation I plunged headfirst into it. And then I promptly gave it up for years. It just felt like a “should” jammed into my priority list somewhere after eating healthy, flossing, and changing the batteries in the smoke detector. It felt overwhelming and uncomfortable when I was living in a reality that looked a lot like this. It seemed like meditation was the stuff of super-calm enlightened people who lived in the Himalayas and never had a bad thought about anyone. (In other words, not me.)
Now, I’m seriously addicted. I meditate every weekday for at least 45 minutes, but usually longer. I get antsy when I don’t get a chance to do it, and I no longer have to force myself to do it. It’s not so much like eating my vegetables anymore, it’s more like taking a delicious bubble bath.
I’m still not someone who gets to a calm, peaceful place easily. I’m just more okay with that now.
But my meditation is still embarrassingly jumbled. It usually goes something like this:
(After Shiva Nata, I’ll usually lay down for bit)
Whoa, the air is still around my head. (Enjoy for 1.6 seconds)
Okay my neck hurts, why is that?
Oh, I’m sure my neck hurts because my body is trying to tell me something deep and meaningful.
Yes, clearly deep and meaningful!! Hmm, I wonder what that might be?
(dog comes in, puts his head on my leg)
Oh hey look I am communicating wordlessly with my dog. He is lulled into calm submission by my peaceful presence. He is meditating!
(dog snoring distracts me for a bit)
Oh, crap I’m supposed to be observing my breath. Letting my thoughts flow in and out of my mind, observing without judgment.
Where are my prayer beads?
Yes, observing my thoughts is quite important. This is good stuff. Meditation is so great. I’m getting so very good at this. I am going to be totally enlightened.
Oh crap! I just forgot to observe my breath there for that bit. Maybe I’ll count prayer beads.
(try to imagine a room where my thoughts are on a projector screen)
(moment of trippy high where I’m observing my thoughts and a calm, peaceful space opens up within me)
Whoa, hey look at that it worked I was totally doing it right then!
Oh crap! Just lost it.
Projector screen, projector screen….
(And, repeat. Like, seven hundred times.)
So…okay, not very enlightened. No visions appear to me. In general, I feel like I’m not very good at it.
But the thing is, meditation is a practice. That moment or series of moments where I separate myself from my swirling thoughts is a moment where I become the watcher. When I become the watcher I become something more than the everyday all-the-time swirling. The space inside of me gets larger. I see that there is more than the surface reality of each moment.
And the more I practice, the more I gain the ability to go there at other times. When I’m just living my life and I’m sitting in traffic about to explode. Or having a difficult conversation with someone I love. Or when I’m bored standing in line at the post office. And when that happens, I seriously feel like I have figured out the entire universe. For one tiny moment. There is no peace like that kind of peace. No high like that kind of high.
There are lots of awesome books about meditation, and lots of forms of practice (and I want talk about some of them eventually, because it’s cool stuff.) But all it really takes is a willingness to sit (or lay down) for a few moments and observe where your mind goes.
I’m not saying it’s easy, because it’s not. In some ways it’s the hardest, scariest thing ever. But totally worth doing (badly).
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