I get so much inspiration to write from conversations I have with people I meet. The other day I was talking to someone about meditation. He was convinced he couldn’t meditate, he wasn’t doing it right, and because of that, he had decided meditation was not for him. Well. If you want to get me going, you should tell me that ;-)
If you want to feel “normal” (whatever that is), and you want to know what it is really like to meditate, and how to deal with thoughts that come up while you meditate, read on!
Imagine: you have finally decided to sit down. You find your position, and you start focussing on your breath. Which you do as it enters and leaves your belly. Or your nostrils. Wait, the other technique seems to work better. I’ll change. Ok restart. Breathing…
Argh, now my ear is really, really itchy. I want to scratch. No, don’t, just sit still. But I want to scratch! NOW! (Scratching…)
Ok now for real! (Adjusting position. Breathing.) Hey this seems to work… Oh, I shouldn’t be thinking that… Aaarghh! I am so bad at this!
How familiar does that sound? Think you’re doing something wrong? WRONG :)
Here’s how to deal with these distractions while you meditate…
Decide on your practice
Decide how you are going to meditate. Your position, how you’ll start, how long for, if you will be using a mantra,… and stick with it. That is the whole point of the exercise, to stick with something, focus on one thing only. No matter what happens during the meditation, finish what you set out to do. Don’t judge how you’re doing it. It doesn’t matter. There are no grades to get, no competition to win. It really doesn’t matter. Just finish.
Only move with intention
If your skin is itchy or you get a cramp, return to your breath. Don’t try to ignore it because it will get stronger. Look at what’s happening more closely. I mean not literally with your eyes, but really sense what is going on in that spot. Be mindful. And if it is still painful or itchy after a while, promise yourself that after 1 more minute you are allowed to adjust your position or scratch. Only then adjust mindfully, intentionally, not finding yourself suddenly in the middle of doing it. (And even if you do it unintentionally, return to your exercise afterward. It’s ok. Really.)
Thoughts are ok
Thoughts are coming up… depending on your mood, it can be about your shopping list, a fight you had with your friend, a phantasy about your future life,… Your mind will do and offer you anything, I repeat anything, to distract you from the task that you set yourself. So when you notice that you went along with a thought, just return to your focus point. Again, again, again. With lots of practice you will find that the space between thoughts will become longer, but just know one thing: your thoughts will not stop. Not ever, not even when you are a long term meditator!
Accept what is there
Often your thoughts are very trivial at first. But the longer you sit, the more you will find that thoughts or feelings are coming up about things that you haven’t thought about in a long time. They can be painful, happy, shameful, violent, anything, but it means you are healing. You have finally given yourself space to process things that have been stuck deep down for a long time, and now they are coming up. Just continue looking at them from a distance, with acceptance. It’s ok.
You are not your thoughts
Whatever thoughts you are thinking, remember that it is not you. You are not your thoughts. No matter how sad or ugly your thoughts, it is not you. You are not your body, you are not your mind. The one looking at these thoughts from a distance is you, you are the one in charge, you decide what to do with them. Once you realise this, it is very empowering. And then you can go back to your focus point. Again, again, again…
Next time your mind offers you one of these distractions, try to recognise them for what they are. Just distractions.