Gain Dominion Over your Thoughts.
Many years ago I had no idea about meditation. I searched the internet wanting to know how to meditate, finding endless examples, all of which left me bewildered. Over the years I’ve learned and practiced, and here I’ll share with you an introduction to this powerful experience.
I once saw an interview with the great author and Toltec teacher, don Miguel Ruiz. He was explaining to Oprah what it’s like to meditate. This was a while ago, and I don’t remember his exact words, but I will paraphrase the concept he presented. Miguel said to imagine a sentence. A sentence has words, and between those words are spaces. Meditation is the practice of learning to widen the spaces between the words until there is more space than there are words. With time, someday you may have no words at all, just space.
Consider the words as your thoughts, and the space between these words as the absence of thoughts. When you meditate to gain dominion over your thoughts your goal is to practice finding those spaces, the absence of thoughts, and experiencing that silence for as long as you can. It takes a lot of work and practice, but the results train your awareness and help to keep your mind clear and your emotions stable in your waking life.
Your mind wants to finish thoughts
Your mind always has an urgent desire for completion. The most important key to meditation is your
Notice how annoyed you just got because I left that sentence unfinished. When your mind is left hanging on an incomplete thought it panics in a small way, because it always wants to know the end. It feels like it is in control when it knows everything. I can assure you, you will never know ‘everything’. Mysteries beg to be solved because it satisfies that deep urge for completion. When there is no end to something, say a thought or idea, the mind experiences fear. This is a fear of the unknown, and in the real world this fear can stun you into indecision, regret, and lack of faith. Meditation teaches your mind to tolerate incompletion, through practice and experience.
When you meditate for silence of mind it will be a great effort of attention and awareness; thoughts can very easily sneak in so quietly without you even noticing –like a teenager slipping in the back door after his curfew. You may never realize the thought is actually there until it’s been there for a while. When this happens your steadfast awareness must notice the thought and stop it in its tracks. Simply do not allow that thought to finish. That will be harder than it sounds, but with practice and consistency it will become easier.
In a future article I will discuss the real power of journaling, but until then, this is a good time to discuss a bit of it here for the sake of this article.
Journaling is many things, one of which is an Ego Flush. It helps clear out all those messy thoughts and feelings cluttering up your mind. When you journal regularly your meditations will be easier and more beneficial because you will have fewer thoughts trying to jump in for your attention. During journaling you have a perfect opportunity to give your mind a place to think its thoughts. Humor it with completions (even if they are imagined conclusions), and get it all down on paper and out of your head.
Another tip related to meditation is to have a small pad of paper and a pencil right next to you whenever you meditate. As you are meditating and a thought pops in, simply reach over quietly and write a small note about that thought. This gets it out of your head on on to paper confirming to your mind that it has been acknowledged. Then your mind won’t feel so desperate to think it again. You won’t lose your state of meditation too much unless you make a big deal about it and start spiraling your thoughts out of control asking yourself how many times am I going to have to do this, or judging yourself for “failing” because you have to stop so often. Just lean over, write, and return; smooth as a breeze.
You and Your Mind are Not the Same
Here’s an easy way to understand the idea that you and your mind are not the same thing; and this may help you as we move into the practice. Think of You (your conscious awareness) as the Captain of a ship; overseeing, choosing, and commanding. Think of your Mind as the crew of this ship; working autonomously, taking orders, keeping the ship clean and heading in the right direction. Consider your thoughts as the individual members of this crew; they each have an important purpose if they are doing their job correctly. Ship Shape = Healthy You. When the crew starts running the ship things will turn bad; you have a mutiny in your head now. You are no longer in control, they are, your thoughts are. An experienced and compassionate captain can keep the crew and the ship running smoothly, just as a practiced and compassionate meditating You can keep your thoughts and emotions ship shape.
As I mentioned before, the only wrong way to meditate is to not do it at all. There are infinite ways to experience meditation such as: breathing, guided, movement, Transcendental, prayer, forgiveness, mindfulness, and the list can go on and on. In this article I am focusing on something quite specific and that is the practice of gaining awareness and dominion over your thoughts and emotions, i.e. training the captain to run a tight ship.
Logistics for Good Meditation
The best time for meditation is any time you have uninterrupted solitude, day or night. Make sure you have no interruptions expected, like friends coming over soon, or a pot of food cooking on the stove. Respect yourself enough to give yourself this time exclusively for you, whether it’s 3 minutes or 30.
Find an environment in which you feel peaceful. Perhaps your living room or bedroom, maybe your backyard, or patio, or even a park, or nature trail, anywhere that is comfortable for you. Look for calm quiet; no traffic or gas-powered leaf blowers nearby. Do your best.
Preferably, avoid lying down; in this position there is a high probability that you will fall asleep; losing consciousness does not train your consciousness. The best position to be is in any way you can have your spine perpendicular to the floor, whether that’s sitting in a supportive chair, on the floor with your legs crossed, or kneeling with your body sitting on a cushion. You want to be comfortable and upright and using as little effort as possible to keep yourself like that. Staying upright with a straight spine gives your body enough activity to keep you from falling asleep. Experiment with different positions.
Do what you can. Take baby steps. Start small and increase as you grow. You’re not going to run a Triathlon tomorrow if you’re a couch potato today. Start with one minute, that’s it, nothing more. In a week move up to 2 minutes, and each week thereafter increase by one minute. You’ll get the hang of it with patience. If you try to rush and do too much too soon you will end up getting frustrated, disappointed, and probably give up. Trust yourself and be patient.
The greatest sabotage to meditation is not having the time to do it. This will be an ominous excuse and one that gives a great illusion of truth. In order to overcome this obstacle you must plan out your time for meditation. Schedule a time within your day and stick to it.
Ideally, every day is best. Of course that’s not always going to be possible. As you increase in time, do your best to maintain your daily practice. The greatest benefits come with consistency. You will find that even though you are taking time each day for meditation, you are still able to get things done, and likely get even more done had you not been meditating. This happens because the meditation teaches you clarity, and reduces your stress which help you manage your time, tasks and thought processes much more efficiently. This helps you get more things done in less time and with higher quality. Isn’t that nice? You must experience it for yourself.
Find your time. Find your place. Find a timer (preferably one that doesn’t have an obnoxious alarm sound) and set it for 60 seconds. Have a seat and get comfortable. Start your timer as you take a deep breath in. Then gently close your eyes as you exhale slowly. Now continue this gentle inhale and exhale. Keep your attention on your breath; notice the air gliding in and out of your nose. If a thought floats into your awareness, let your breath be your lasso to wrangle your thoughts; do your best to prevent that thought from finishing, the instant you notice it. Then bring your attention right back to your breath. If you have an itch on your body, simply scratch it and return to the breath, don’t think anything of the itch. Breathe in and out slowly, lasso those thoughts and keep them in check.
Ding….Your minute is done. Congratulations, You did it! The worst thing you can do right now is judge yourself. If your head was running rampant with thoughts like a herd of cats, it’s OK. It will get better and easier. Just practice this again tomorrow, maybe try a different time of day, and see how it turns out. One minute, no more.
A Gift for You
On this page you will find an audio recording that will guide you through a very simple meditation. Use this whenever you like. You can come back to this page any time to listen or download the file below to keep with you and play whenever you want. Share this with your friends, and if enough people like it maybe I’ll do more in the future.
Intro to Meditation audio file
Share Your Experiences
So how did you do with your first meditation? Share your comments and experiences below. We’ll love to hear your side of things.
A little note: the music in the background of the meditation was created by my Dad and I in 2002 for his hypnosis recordings. It’s funny how, now that he’s gone, I seem to be picking up where he left off. Thanks Dad!