A Meditation Pep Talk

Perhaps you are thinking of starting a meditation practice or have tried to meditate in the past but got discouraged. If so, this is for you.

Our lives are unfolding in an ongoing stream of ever-changing sights, sounds, physical sensations, tastes, smells and thoughts. Mindfulness is the simple resting of attention in the moment-by-moment unfolding of experience. It is deliberately choosing to pay attention to and open to things just how they are. There are many different ways to meditate, but a common method is to focus on one aspect of experience while allowing the rest to fall into the background. For instance, you might chose to open your attention to the various sounds that are arising and passing away as you sit quietly, or you might follow the sensations of your breath, one by one, as it comes and goes. Having a specific focus will help steady your mind.

The present moment can seem very slippery, especially when you first start out. If you’re like most people, you’re going to find that you keep sliding off the moment by getting lost in thought. And that’s okay. Really! It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad meditator or that you should give up. Think about it: the recognition that you have been lost in thought is, in itself, a moment of awareness. It can be a cause for joy, rather than self-criticism or judgment. Whether you’ve been “gone” for 15 seconds or 15 minutes, it doesn’t matter. You simply notice that you’ve been caught up in thinking, and then gently bring your attention back to your primary focus.  And then be willing to do it again and again.

People often have the idea that when you meditate, your mind should be empty of thoughts. This common misunderstanding is a source of great frustration. It is true that over time as you meditate your mind will naturally become more quiet and calm, but it doesn’t happen by trying not to think. It doesn’t happen by trying to push anything away, even thoughts. In time, with practice, you will discover that it is possible to become aware of thoughts without getting lost in the content of them.

Meditation is a process. It is a practice, a practice in patience. Give it time, and you’ll see many benefits.

Written by Elena Walker, MA, LPCC

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