Last updated April, 2016.
The question: "When I meditate, am I training my mind?"
It's a common thing to say - meditating trains your mind. Or, it tames you mind. Or, it silences your mind. But, none of those are accurate.
It would be more accurate to say meditating trains you, or - specifically - your attention.
Your mind is compulsive, and thoughts, emotions, and other mental activity are incessant and pervasive.
When it comes to mind-made activity, you have a choice: you can indulge it OR you can let it be as it is, independent from you and your attention.
"Indulge" is defined as "becoming involved in an activity...typically one that is undesirable." When you indulge your mind's activity - thoughts, emotions, urges, etc. - you are caught up in it.
Being caught up in it perpetuates it - it gives rise to more of the same. This often culminates in you being buried in mental noise (as Tolle says, the human condition is "lost in thought").
The other option - letting it be as it is, independent from you and your attention - is commonly referred to as "letting thoughts and emotions go," or letting them pass. What it really means is moving your attention away from them.
Where do you move your attention to? If you are meditating, to your anchor (usually your breath or a mantra).
If you aren't meditating, to the present moment/task at hand. This is called being mindful.
On a related note, people often say their minds wander, and meditating keeps that from happening. This isn't accurate, however. Meditating trains you to keep your attention from wandering.
Your mind will do what it will do. Your job isn't to control it, it's to stop letting it control you.
It's important to clarify these misconceptions, because people come to the practices believing they are going to "train their mind" and make it quiet. They quickly find out they can't do that, so they get frustrated and give up.
And then they go back to a life of stress, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and all the other struggles that meditation and mindfulness - properly taught and applied - can help you overcome.
We go through life distracted.
Whether you realize it or not, it's our normal state.
All of us are immersed in a never-ending stream of thoughts and emotions. They hijack our attention, and cause the struggles we deal with every day (read more)...
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