There you sit.
You close your eyes and take a breath and before you even exhale, the IBSC begins to pipe in—you know: the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee.
The chairmen of your fears, doubts and insecurities begin to get louder and louder like an episode of The View. A litany of useless thoughts begins to pour across you as if you’ve just entered a waterfall in slow motion.
You immediately feel like you suck at meditation.
The committee takes a vote that you clearly have no business doing this and the motion is passed. Your eyes open, you figure it was worth a shot, and get on about your day. Sound familiar? The good news is that you just had the same exact experience that human beings have been having for thousands of years.
The big dirty secret to meditation that somehow got lost in its new-found trendiness is this: (get ready, it’s a big one) you’re supposed to have thoughts!
Meditation is not the practice of not having thoughts.
It is the practice of training ourselves how to engage those thoughts and fine-tune our ability to choose which ones we want in our lives. Once we have trained ourselves to see our thoughts for what they are and no longer put each one on a tiny pedestal and bow to them throughout the day, only then can we begin to have less of them.
Once we have less of them we will begin to savor the still moments between our thoughts. Marinating our souls in those still moments between our thoughts—that is who we really are.
So, meditation requires thoughts for us to learn to harness our own minds. Sure there are some Zen monks and enlightened beings out there who can clear themselves of thoughts completely, but there are also people who can base jump and understand string theory and you aren’t upset you can’t do those things.
Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to be the perfect meditator, and join the rest of us in this sometimes frustrating and always beautiful journey toward taming our minds.
So what is that one easy step to learn how to meditate? Get off your own case! That’s it. It’s really that simple.
Right now close your eyes, take a breath, and get off your own case.
Don’t decide what you’re supposed to feel like, look like, think about, or achieve. The moment you get off your own case you will feel a sensation of safety in your own skin, and you might glimpse for the first time what it’s like to love your own company in the intimate darkness of your eyelids.
You’ll float in a place with no answers because there are no questions. You’ll get distracted and come back to the sensations in your body and find yourself amazed at your own form.
You’ll get distracted again, and then feel your ribs move in and out and you’ll ride the beat of your body and the rhythm of your breath.
You’ll get distracted again and you won’t care and you’ll come back to the colors dancing inside your eyes and feel the miracle of gravity anchoring you to the earth and before you know it you’ll fall in love with everything you don’t understand.
Meditation is the practice of getting off our own cases over and over again. Whether it be for one minute or 30, our job isn’t to fight through the distractions—our job is to lower our weapons.
One of the things I love about meditation is that this practice is a perfect mirror for life. Everything we need to do to sit still is what we need to do to move well in this world. We must slow down, talk less but say more, and be willing to be uncomfortable sometimes.
Meditation is life practice.
It’s exhausting, ineffective, and a little egoistic to micro-judge yourself at every turn. Lower your emotional fists, close your eyes, and let whatever happens be enough. It’s time to get off your own case.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Dana Gornall/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo Credit: Caleb Roenigk/Flickr