In Meditation Part I. we briefly discussed “daily life practice”. The objective was to become more aware of your thoughts, label them as guests and be more mindful of the present. Seems easy enough right? If you are reading this blog entry then there is a pretty good chance you have tried meditation before. I can certainly recall my first meditation attempts: A train wreck is probably the best description. One would think finding time to self-actualize would be the most difficult facet of meditation. With such busy lives, when can we find time to meditate? Others may think that the most difficult part of meditation is sitting in one spot for an extended period of time. Truthfully, the most challenging part of meditation is fielding all the thoughts that parade through our heads at any given point. Sure your first meditation seems to start off well: You feel mindful and are focused on your out breath (at least for a few seconds). Then almost unknowingly, bizarre thoughts enter your mind: The Festivus episode on Seinfeld. Do dogs have feelings? What happened to the peanuts they used to serve on airplanes? Did I leave the refrigerator door ajar? Before you know it you are completely side-tracked and the first instinct for most of us is to get frustrated.

There lies the second lesson in meditation: Do not get frustrated when your mind gets side-tracked. Why should our thoughts frustrate us? Thoughts are thoughts and there is no reason to get frustrated. All frustration does is erode the peace in our minds – completely the opposite of what we are trying to do here. I talked earlier about being more mindful of the present. Most of our egos’ function in the past and future: Feeding off our unorganized thoughts of fear and fantasy. When we are rooted in the present, we are a part of life in the now; connected, unfettered and alive. Still, even when our minds are rooted in the present, it is impossible to stop the incessant thoughts that careen through our heads at any given moment – this is simply how the mind operates. Still, we have control over how we manage these thoughts. A good approach is to simply label your thoughts as guests. A thought will materialize; you will process it as a guest in your mind, and then let it dissolve into nothingness. Instead of being focused on the content of the thought, think of where the thought came from and where it is going. As the thought dissolves, refocus your attention on the present. Focusing on the “in and out” breath is the best tactic for staying mindful of the present. To reiterate, rhythmic breathing connects the mind with the body and focusing on your breath is crucial to successful meditation. I will talk more about this later.

As a novice (during meditation) you may have to retrain or re-focus the mind a 100 times or more during a 20 minute meditation session. This can be mentally exhaustive and may seem unproductive. Yet, there is a completion of the process. You see, the mind is like any other muscle in the human body. The more you use it the stronger and more fit it becomes. Many of us live life on the edge of controlled chaos – our lives are wrought with stress, drama and even anxiety. This is because we let our egos govern our thoughts and actions. Much like the laws of Karma, what we put out in the Universe will return to us as an equal response or level of energy. When our mind is not at peace, we are not at peace. Meditation is about acknowledging all the thoughts in our heads as guests and then immediately shifting our focus back to the present. It will take time, but eventually all those incessant thoughts will calm and simply be a backdrop to more productive meditative thoughts. Further, repetition is the key to success. Even if you feel you are not benefiting from meditation, keep at it and do not give up. Your brain is growing stronger and more stable with each new session. It is the constant push and pull of refocusing your thoughts when you get side-tracked that builds stability and thus a successful practice. Also, extend your breathing and mindfulness into your daily life and over time shift your entire perspective away from ego, past and future and into the present.

In my next meditation discussion (Part III) we will reveiw “set and focus” which will be the mainstay for future meditations. For now, label those thoughts as guests and be mindful of the present.

How to create Mindful Gaps in your Day

John C. Bader