So I’m a week into my attempt to meditate daily, and it’s going well so far I think. As far as any kind of technique goes, I have simply been watching my breath. Every time my mind wanders (which is ridiculously often), I just gently steer it back to observing the breath, trying to feel it enter and leave my nostrils and sense its journey into my lungs. Here are some of my observations from week one:
- Only when you start to watch the workings of your own mind do you realise quite how bonkers we humans are, in terms of our thought-processes. I sit back and watch the totally bizarre melodrama play out, with random tangents pinging off each other, endless judgements nagging away, obscure memories popping up, future predictions nodding sagely, anxieties exploding, a myriad characters invading, intricately detailed story-lines developing. It’s noisy bedlam in there and makes no sense whatsoever as soon as you take an overview rather than following any one of the sub-plots.
- So, on most days my mind feels like a box full of wriggling puppies all trying to escape. Just as soon as I retrieve one errant ‘puppy'(ie train of thought) and put it back in the box another one falls out and off I go again. I see my ‘thought-herding’ behaviour as if it were in one of those endlessly repeating gifs.
- On better days my mind sometimes settles towards stillness towards the end of the session – maybe in the last ten minutes or so. It’s such a wonderful, peaceful treat when all the nonsense pipes down for a moment and allows me just to experience what is happening right then, and nothing else.
- Simultaneously pursuing writing projects and meditation is quite a clash. When I’m in writing and observing mode my brain is in creative over-drive. I have so many ideas and flashes of inspiration and I can’t sleep, so my mind is much harder to tame. But I need that mental sharpness for the writing to flow. Plus, writing is all about observing and interpreting what you’re seeing into words, which inevitably requires you to make judgements. Yet the kind of mindfulness I am moving towards through my meditation is all about not making judgements, just accepting what is. Confusing! Yet perhaps not as contradictory as you might think… Mindfulness allows you to see things as they truly are, and truth and creativity are two sides of the same coin. So I think the addition of meditation into the mix will actually benefit my creativity in the long run, and it is certainly helping me to focus my mind sufficiently to park my bum on a chair and actually put pen to paper.
- Although I have a loooong way to go to tame my mind enough to stop it continually going off on one, I can still see the good progress I’m making. The fact I notice when my mind trips off on some bonkers tangent is a big step in the right direction, as to notice this requires a certain amount of mindfulness. When we’re not mindful at all we just find ourselves powerlessly sucked into whatever story our mind creates for us at that moment. So instead, I’m catching the story at its beginning and gently nudging it back into nescience.
- I’m also pleased to observe how comfortably still I can sit for 40 minutes (so my 13 years of yoga have had some use then!) and how surprisingly calm I feel when my mind wanders for the umpteenth time, rather than berating myself for my rubbish meditating skills. I genuinely don’t feel such negativity towards myself, I think because I’m recognising that such bad feelings are just another story that the mind will try and trick me into believing, and I am increasingly able to detach myself from the thoughts I have.
- I am taking my improved mindfulness away with me into the rest of the day – I especially notice it in pranayama practice, which is 90 minutes of exactly the same breathing exercises every day. When I first started I struggled with boredom, but doing the exercises mindfully means boredom isn’t possible – boredom is just yet another manifestation of the restless mind, tricking you and taking you away from the present moment and what’s really happening.
- This is all incredibly fascinating stuff to me and I appear to have rambled on for far too long, as per usual, sorry! Enough for now… 😉