This was the title that came to me last night while trying to meditate. Long and unwieldy, sure, but it grows on you. However, it was one of the many thoughts ping-ponging around my head last night, frustrating me as I attempted to quiet my mind.
I recently bought a new meditation book. It is written by Dan Harris, the ABC news anchor who had a panic attack live on air. Since then he discovered meditation, wrote a book about it called 10 Percent Happier, and has a new book out called Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. I recently bought the book, even though I already have one or two other meditation books, which some might say makes me bad with money, but which I prefer to say makes me bookish.
However, in the case of this book it makes sense because it is a how-to book, something I can refer to again and again in my inevitable failings with meditation. Specifically, Dan’s I-know-this-sounds-hokey-but-trust-me-it-works attitude might be just the type of how-to guide I need to help me succeed.
And so, it was against this backdrop that I attempted to quiet my mind last night, only to have it get immediately noisier. Here is a brief, hyperbolic, reenactment of my thoughts while attempting to meditate.
Breath in, breath out. Breath In-wait I have an itch. I really should go to bed. That is why I am doing oh, right, I’m supposed to be meditating. Breath in, breath- I wonder where the cat is. Maybe I should check on my laundry. I wonder if I have any new notifications on my phone. Wait no. Meditate. Meditate dammit! Wow I have a lot of thoughts in here.
“Wow, I have a lot of thoughts in here.” That was my take away from meditating last night, and frustrating as it was having all these thoughts pop-up like unwanted ads, it is a sign I was successful, at least according to Dan’s books. You see, I bought these books to get back to basics in my meditation practice. And one of the first things you need to realize is that meditation isn’t about emptying the mind, something that Dan points out won’t happen unless you are an enlightened meditation master, but rather to be mindful of the thoughts that come up, and to be forgiving of yourself when you inevitably get distracted, then gently redirecting your wandering mind back to the breath until it inevitably gets distracted again.
Author’s note: This is specifically about mindfulness meditation. However, there are many different types of meditation practices out there. So if this description doesn’t ring true for your because you practice a different type of meditation, don’t worry.
And being aware of how many thoughts are bouncing around in your mind at any given time, thoughts about the past, the future, what you’ve done right, what you’ve done wrong, what you still need to do, etc is an important first step, one that made me feel like a failure even though I was a success. Because all those thoughts can feed both my anxiety and my depression, exacerbating both and leading to the negative spiral that so often seems to begin yet another dark tale of depression or anxiety.
The reason this was a success, despite feeling like a failure, is because being mindful of this reality will allow me to be better prepared when it comes to recognizing all these thoughts and shutting them down before they get out of hand.
And if that happens on a regular basis than this annoying meditation that I think I am failing at will in fact be a success. And that makes my recent reinvestment in meditation a no-brainer.