Thoughts are constantly coming and going in a seemingly endless stream of connected subjects and concepts. Meditation simply allows us an opportunity to create space between these thoughts therefore keeping us from being swept away by their display. We’ve all had the experience of suddenly “waking up” and realizing we’ve been somewhere else in our mind for minutes or even hours at a time. Being lost in the constant chatter of our minds can be mentally exhausting and can also keep us from seeing what is truly happening in our lives. Fortunately thoughts, like all things, are impermanent.
The mind is a lot like muddy water in that if you continue to stir and agitate it, it will stay cloudy and murky.
When meditating we don’t push away thoughts or avoid them but, we also don’t latch on to or engage them…both of which cause agitation and in turn cloud the mind. We just simply watch thoughts rise and let them pass. Another analogy is to think of your mind as the sky and thoughts as the clouds that pass by. The clouds don’t need anyone to help them come and go…they just do this on their own. Meditation gives us that vantage point of just watching the sky.
Keeping this explanation in mind, let’s just go over a simple seated meditation practice that anyone can do. The morning is always a good time to meditate because the mind is fresh and we aren’t cluttered with the day’s activities. Also, it sets the vibe for the entire day to follow.
- Start by coming into a comfortable, upright seated position, shoulders relaxed and the crown of your head extending up with your hands resting on the tops of your legs. You can sit cross-legged on the floor or in a chair. If sitting cross-legged on the floor, sit on the edge of a cushion or blanket as this helps keep your back straight and supported. Have your back straight but still be comfortable and natural – we don’t want to create strain.
- Now turn inward and let go of the thoughts of the past and any plans for the future. Gently bring your attention to the breath – specifically the spot where it comes in and out of the nose. Just stay with the breath and if your mind wanders (and it will) just simply bring it back to the breath. That’s it.
- At the beginning you may want to try counting each exhale up to 10 and if your mind wanders, just start back at 1. If you make it to 10 without your mind wandering (congratulations) then simply start at 1 again. You may want to count 5 breaths and then start over once you’ve reached 5. Remember, you want to be comfortable and not force anything.
- After time you will notice the mind gets more and more calm revealing it’s natural, relaxed and open state and you can let go of counting.
We are not our thoughts but something much more interesting to be explored. Thoughts and emotions are simply the play and expression of the mind and will always eventually dissolve back into their own nature over time.
Sometimes emotions can be seemingly overwhelming driving us into unfavorable states of mind or cause us to act in ways we don’t necessarily want to. It’s helpful to step back and take on a different perspective before we become overwhelmed.
Think of the analogy of a snowball rolling down a mountain. It’s easier to stop it at the top when it’s a snowball than at the bottom when it has gained momentum and become an avalanche.
Whenever unpleasant thoughts and emotions arise just simply pause to take a few breaths in the manner explained above. This will give you the space to take on a different perspective and preemptively diffuse a potential avalanche. It requires mindfulness and awareness to notice what you’re thinking when you’re thinking it and meditation gives us this amazing skill to live happier more fulfilling lives.
Originally published at http://www.michaelstarita.com/mindfulness/meditation/.
About Michael Starita
Michael Starita is a yoga teacher and light-hearted meditation practitioner originally from Jackson, Mississippi now residing in the Bay Area. Michael started his spiritual journey in 2000 after receiving emowerments and teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lati Rinpoche and many other Tibetan Buddhist masters which led him to his heart teacher, meditation master Anam Thubten. The mindfulness practices he’s learned from these masters in years of silent retreats serve as the basis for his yoga practice and teaching.
Michael’s classes welcome an inquiry into the mind and body to create space, wakefulness, and courage to let go of the thought patterns and habits that bind us. By aligning our physical bodies, he demonstrates how the same principles can be used in aligning our thoughts and actions to be more at ease and graceful in our lives.