It’s time to think about what you’re thinking about – Pt 3: Meditation is not what you think
Although today’s subject, meditation, can stand alone, it is meant to be Part II of my previous article, “It’s time to think about what you’re thinking about.” In it I described how we create our lives with our thoughts. We can express the same idea another way by saying, “If you want to know what you think about, look at how you are living. If you want to change how you are living, change what you are thinking about.”
The process of self-creation can be summarized as follows. Something happens in our life, and that event acts as a stimulus, triggering a thought. The nature of that thought (positive or negative) is determined by our attitude. And our attitude is shaped by the majority of our previous thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Once we have a thought, it is immediately accompanied by an emotion or feeling. Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions and positive thoughts to positive feelings. Our positive or negative emotions then lead to positive or negative behaviour. Negative behaviour leads to negative outcomes and positive behaviour to positive outcomes. The outcomes, or results and consequences of our behaviour, then reinforce our attitude, causing us to become locked into a negative or positive lifestyle. A visual representation (revised and improved) of the entire process is available at http://www.personal-development.com/chuckfiles/Self-Creation.gif.
If we are unhappy with our current situation, we can interrupt the cycle of negativity by changing our focus from what we are to what we plan to become, from what we lack to what we already have and plan to have. In other words, all we have to do is change our thoughts. To help us do this, our Higher Self warns us every time we do something wrong by causing us to feel bad. Negative emotions, such as frustration, anger, and sadness are warnings that if we wish to experience happiness, we have to change our thoughts and their resultant emotions, actions, and consequences.
Sometimes, however, even if we accept all the above and work on changing ourselves, progress is slower than we would like. It is like driving through mud. Because of the absence of traction, we make little progress. What do we do then? That’s the purpose of this article. You see, I want to introduce you to the art of meditation. It removes the mud. It unclogs the road so we can make smooth progress. The road I am speaking about is the channel of communication between our conscious mind and Higher Self. Meditation makes us more aware of our Inner Voice or Inner Guidance. It makes us more likely to listen for and follow the warnings that our Higher Self so graciously whispers. Without meditation, our Inner Voice is often lost in the din of internal chattering known as self-talk.
But why do I have to meditate? Isn’t it unnatural to withdraw from the world? Look, if you live in New York City and return to your apartment, you are not leaving or withdrawing from New York. Your apartment is part of New York. Besides, while at home you may read the paper to increase your understanding of the city and enjoy it even more. Similarly, when we meditate we are merely returning to our home, our inner world, which is very much a part of the outer world. And our rest there strengthens us and improves our lives.
Okay. Then, what is meditation and how do we go about it? A complete explanation would need a book. After all, meditators have numerous objectives and there are hundreds of methods to help them reach their goals. My aim here is merely to introduce you to the subject and share ONE way of removing the ‘mud’ by clearing the mind.
Meditation that is used to clear the mind is not about thinking. That’s why this article is subtitled “Meditation is not what you think.” To clear the mind, we have to do the opposite. We have to empty our mind of all thoughts. We are not our thoughts any more than we are our arms or legs. As human beings, we have limbs, and as thinkers, we have thoughts. But we are not our thoughts. As we brush our thoughts aside, all that remains is our Higher Self (also called our True Self). By abandoning all thought, we discover the core of our being. Paraphrasing Alan W. Watts (1915 ~ 1973), this process is like a courteous audience that stops talking when a concert is about to begin.
But how is it possible to empty our minds or ‘think about nothing’? Admittedly, it’s not easy. But neither is it as difficult as you may imagine. Pretend you are in the countryside. You are seated beneath a tree and beautiful blue flowers bloom at your feet. You pluck a flower and raise it to your nose. How many thoughts does it take to enjoy its fragrance? How many thoughts does it take to soak in the velvety feeling of the flower petals? How many thoughts does it take to see the explosion of yellow that appears in the heart of the flower? How many thoughts does it take to taste a drop of the flower’s nectar? How many thoughts does it take to hear a meadowlark singing in the background?
The answer, my friend, is none. When we drop our thoughts, we are free to experience reality unclouded by preconceptions, labels, and assumptions. At such a time, we get to see the world as it is instead of as we THINK it is. By applying the principles in our example of the countryside visit, we can arrive at a method to meditate without thinking.
Sit yourself comfortably and sit straight. Take a few deep breaths and relax all over. Close your eyes and pretend to be in the countryside. Imagine that you are looking at a flower, or twig, or blade of grass, or even an unidentifiable blob. There is nothing to think about. Just look. As you do so, the flower, twig, blade of grass, or blob may change color, shape, or size. If it does, that’s okay. If it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. Don’t comment on it. Don’t judge it. Don’t expect anything. Merely sit still and observe.
As you practice this exercise, stray thoughts will wander through your mind like leaves blown about by the wind. That’s okay, but as soon as you are aware of them, gently sweep them aside and return to the exercise. Alternatively, if you can’t sweep your thoughts aside, treat each one as a flower, twig, blade of grass, or blob. That is, observe them being blown about by a breeze. Don’t comment on them. Don’t label them as good or bad, positive or negative, or true of false. Just watch them slowly recede into the distance, only to be replaced by other leave-thoughts.
You can start out practicing this exercise for ten minutes a day and work yourself up to 20 ~ 30 minutes a day. As you do so, you will remove roadblocks and enable your Subconscious or Higher Self to communicate more freely with your conscious mind. Intuition, inspiration, and guidance will come your way automatically.
To learn more about meditation, I recommend the following books, which are all available at Amazon.com.
1. “The Three Minute Meditator,” David Harp, MJF Books, New York, 1996. A perfect introduction to the art of meditation. Includes 30 techniques.
2. “How to Meditate,” Lawrence LeShan, Bantam Books, Toronto, 1986. Considered a classic and deservedly so. Concise, clear, and comprehensive.
3. “Meditation,” by Osho, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1996. Brief, yet thorough overview. Includes 61 techniques.