Last updated March, 2016.
You are not unique. But, ironically, all of us think we are!
We previously wrote a blog post titled "Misconceptions about meditating ('I'm supposed to stop thinking!')" This post explored two common fallacies we hear repeatedly:
- The goal of meditating is to "stop thinking" (it's not!).
- Meditation is about controlling thoughts (it's not, and you can't anyway).
It's critical to correct these misconceptions, otherwise people get frustrated and give up.
In recent weeks, we are seeing another misconception (or excuse):
My mind is too busy to meditate!
This brings us back to the fact that you are not unique.
Every day we get messages or talk to people who think they are the only person who has a mind that is always going. They like to talk about the chatter in their head, and how it's non-stop. And how their thoughts just keep coming.
They believe their mind is busier than everyone else's, and don't entertain the possibility that we all suffer from the same affliction!
But, we all do. As Eckhart Tolle says,
"The human condition is lost in thought."
When we are young, our parents tell us we are unique. They have the best intentions, but this view eventually causes us to feel isolated - like we are different from everyone else. It perpetuates a feeling of being alone, and can lead to the divisive view of "me against the world."
But we aren't that different. We all share a common set of problems*. And, one of the most prevalent problems is a mind that is extremely busy!
Ironically, the excuse that so many people use as to why they can't meditate is exactly why they should!
As we've discussed on this blog before, the point of meditation is to become aware of your compulsive mind and its non-stop activity. By cultivating awareness, we learn to notice this activity from a neutral, non-judgmental perspective. In doing so, we discover we don't have to get caught up in the thoughts, emotions, and urges - we learn we don't have to attach to them and turn them into "our story."
This is the first step towards liberation.
Our challenge to you is this: dedicate 10 minutes this weekend to observing your mind. Take 5 minutes on Saturday and 5 minutes on Sunday, sit in a chair with your back straight, and focus your attention on your breath as it enters and exits your nostrils (or your stomach as it rises and falls).
When you notice that your attention has wandered and you're aware of thoughts, simply return it to your breath. Every time you do this, you are cultivating awareness and strengthening concentration!
Be warned - your attention will wander a lot. But don't get frustrated. As long as you notice and return it to your breath, you are doing it right!
You can spare 10 minutes this weekend, can't you? If you do this Saturday and Sunday, you can also do it Monday and Tuesday. And you can eventually do it twice a day instead of once a day. And, you can eventually do it for 10 minutes each time instead of 5 minutes each time.
That's how you build a habit - one step at a time. You just have to start.
What do you get in return for your efforts? Struggles such as stress, worry, anxiety, depression, fear, and regret begin to lose their hold on you. The challenges of life don't affect you as much as they once did.
And, happiness, peace, and contentment come to you easier (and, stay with you longer).
*reflecting on this realization - that we all share a common set of problems - will also help you cultivate compassion for yourself and others. We have a daily musing that expands on this topic: You aren't unique (so have some compassion for yourself).
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