This article was last updated December, 2017.
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You are not unique.
But, ironically, all of us think we are!
We previously wrote an article titled Misconceptions about meditating ('I'm supposed to stop thinking!') It explored two common fallacies we repeatedly hear:
It's critical to correct these misconceptions, otherwise people get frustrated and give up.
In recent months, 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 week 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 mind, 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 - unfortunately - this guidance leads to feelings of isolation. If you are unique and different from others, you tend to develop the mistaken (and divisive) view of "me against the world." You foster a mindset that the things you go through are unlike the things everyone else goes through.
The fact is, we aren't that different. We all share a common set of challenges*. And, one of the most prominent challenges 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 in previous articles, the point of meditation is to become aware of your compulsive mind and its non-stop activity. By strengthening awareness, we learn to notice it all without getting caught up in it (without getting swept away by it). We see the temporary nature of everything that arises: thoughts, emotions, urges, mental states - it all comes and goes, provided we don't cling to it and turn it into "our story."
This is the first step on the path to 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 strengthening awareness and concentration! Most important, you're training yourself to stop blindly following your mind wherever it leads.
Be warned - your attention will wander a lot. But, don't get frustrated. As long as you notice it has wandered and return it to your breath, you are doing it right! Notice and return. Notice and return. Notice and return.
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 session instead of 5 minutes each session.
This is how you build a habit - one step at a time. You just have to start.
What do you get in return for your efforts? Mental states such as stress, worry, anxiety, depression, fear, and regret begin to lose their hold on you. The "struggles of life" don't affect you as much as they once did.
And, a more content state of being comes to you easier (and, stays with you longer). You might even find it has been there are along, but was covered up by your compulsive mind and its non-stop activity!
*reflecting on this realization - that we all share a common set of challenges - will also help you cultivate compassion for yourself and others.
What if we told you the biggest problem in your life is that your mind is the biggest problem in your life, and you don’t realize it?
It is. But, our online, self-paced program can help you stop being a prisoner of thoughts, emotions, and urges.
Find out more about the ABT program here.
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Don't fall into the trap of believing you or your problems are unique: you aren't, and they aren't. Realizing this can be liberating.