Understanding meditation and taking control of your life
Meditation is one of the current buzzwords circulating the internet and the western world in the modern age, but does anyone actually know what the practice truly involves?
I feel there is a huge misunderstanding of meditation and the purpose of why we choose to meditate. It seems it is mainly seen as a fashionable thing to do which involves chanting mantras, sitting on a floor cross legged and shouting ‘love’ and ‘light’ every 20 seconds. I plan to simplify this wonderful practice. I aim to explain why it may not be as peaceful, fashionable and lovely as it seems but something far greater than that. If we wish to tackle our negative and destructive thoughts, then meditation is a solid starting point. The quote to get us started here is from the Indian philosopher Paramasha Yoganada.
“You may control a mad elephant; You may shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger; Ride the lion and play with the cobra; By alchemy you may learn your livelihood; You may wander through the universe incognito; Make vassals of the gods; be ever youthful; You may walk in water and live in fire; But control of the mind is better and more difficult.” Paramahansa Yogananda
The practice of learning to meditate is not just about sitting in a peaceful state and clearing thoughts. It is a decisive action you are planning to take to get control of your mind and life back. Meditation is an essential tool in helping us start to get our mind back. As Yogananda clearly states here in this profound quote, the practice of learning to control the mind is one of the highest achievements you can possibly attain in life. But he also states that it is one of the more difficult things to attain in life. We may achieve many things in our lifetime but how many times have we actually focussed on taking back control of our minds.
Meditation = Taking control of your mind
Meditation is the process of learning to take control of your mind and meditating should be approached in this manner. To see it as anything less is to do Meditation a great injustice and to limit its effectiveness. If you persist and learn this practice properly it could be the life changing event you have been searching for. Meditation is also a great way of starting to take self responsibility again.
‘You have two choices, to control your mind or to let your mind control you.’ Paulo Coelho
You must ask yourself this simple question, do you control your mind or does your mind control you? I feel in the majority of cases the latter is true. The mind appears to be in control of the mind and not the operator. The car is driving itself and the driver is not at the wheel any longer. Choosing to start meditating is you as the operator choosing to take control of your thoughts back. It should be seen for what it truly is, it is an act of violence against our out of control thought patterns.
Start slowly and Practice, Practice, Practice
For people who have truly lost control of their own thoughts, then meditation can seem very intimidating to begin with. Worse than that, many people don’t always feel comfortable being alone with their own thoughts and anxious feelings. This may even put them off from trying to meditate. When I mention meditation and its benefits to people, a common response will be ‘I don’t think I can do that, I can’t stop thinking’.
Meditation must not be seen in the beginning as a way of stopping yourself from thinking. It should be seen as simply a way of analysing your own thoughts and the inner workings of your mind. This is a much more rational way to approach meditation as a beginner, as the famous saying states ‘Rome was not built in a day!’.
Eventually you will be able to achieve a state where you can minimise thinking altogether, which is a wonderfully peaceful experience. But building mind awareness must be your first step in becoming better at meditation. As mentioned previously, the key to getting a more healthy mind is the simple process of actually questioning the thoughts you have. Once we begin this process we can then move on to eliminating thoughts altogether.
As with learning any other skill in life, meditation is a practice that is slowly improved over a period of time with sustained effort and commitment. Do not be overly harsh upon yourself, if results are not delivered instantly. Persistance is the key to improving your ability to meditate.
Meditation = Looking at thoughts and clearing thoughts
“Sit in meditation ! But do not think ! Look only at your mind ! You will see thoughts coming into it ! Before they can enter, throw these away from your mind till your mind is capable of entire silence.” Sri Aurobindo
As Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo beautifully states here, start the process as a form of looking at your mind and the thoughts that enter your mind. Analyse the thoughts entering your mind, are these thoughts worthwhile or even accurate? If the thoughts entering your mind are not worthwhile or truthful, then surely your next step must be to disregard these harmful thoughts and throw them away. As you gently begin to assert control over the thoughts entering your mind, you should notice the thoughts becoming less frequent and more silence/peace can then start to enter your mind.
Long term Meditation = Disciplined and Aware mind
You must learn to become aware of your thoughts and the way your mind operates. Meditation is a superb way of beginning the process of becoming more aware. Once you start practicing the art of becoming aware of your thoughts, then you will notice even on a day to day basis, you will begin to question your ‘out of control’ mind and it’s random daily ramblings. You will no longer just accept incoming thoughts or memories as the truth of who you are as a person. You will notice slowly that your mind is learning to become more self disciplined and you can gradually begin to control your mind in a more assertive way.
In the beginning of our journey to change, meditation is a very effective way of increasing our awareness. See it simply as a chance to sit down and analyse your thoughts. You may even notice a strange realisation starting to hit you, that informs you that your thoughts are not assisting you but hindering you. This is a very positive step towards progress when you have this realisation, as understanding that you have a problem with destructive thoughts means you can actually begin the process of eliminating destructive thoughts. It is also you acknowledging the fact that a lot of your thoughts are not even true, which is a huge positive.
Once you have increased awareness of your thoughts on a day to day basis, you have started your journey and meditation is achieving it’s purpose of helping you to take back control of your mind and thinking. We must take full responsibility for our thoughts and escape the ‘victim’ mindset once and for all.
My next post on meditation will be a short guide on how you can start your meditation journey.