Why Should I meditate?

beginners meditation beginners yoga meditation meditation for beginners why should i meditate? Aug 09, 2022

Why should I meditate?

Meditation has become a buzzword lately. Everyone thinks they should meditate, and yet, thinking is exactly the problem. The sages say that learning to tame the mind and senses is like taming wild horses. Most of us in modern society suffer from overactive thinking. There is so much to think about. How could we imagine slowing down enough to sit still with the gremlins in our head?

One of the things I’ve learned about myself in recovery is that my thinking becomes distorted. Sometimes I get hyped up on emotions, or I need to HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired), or I become obsessive over people, places, and things over which I cannot control. When my thinking becomes distorted, I don’t see things clearly. When I’m not seeing things clearly, I have learned that I can’t trust my thinking.

That was one of the most revolutionary ideas: Don’t believe everything you think. There was a time in my life, where if I had a thought I misconstrued that with truth. Just because I think it, doesn’t make it true. My brain thinks up all kinds of weird shit about myself and others. As is common with many folks, I spent most of my young life thinking that I was fat. I look back at photos of myself only to find out that I wasn’t huge at all. This is a common experience many of us have about what we believed was true about our younger selves. My thinking about my body size has always been distorted. I’ve learned that my thinking can’t always be trusted.

So how does that fit into meditation? It still doesn’t answer the question about “why should I meditate.” It is through the practice of meditation that I learned that thoughts are fleeting. Thoughts come and go like farts, some of them pass by silently and others smell like shit. What can you do? You’re only human.

One of the most common myths of novice meditators is the belief that you are supposed to turn off your thinking when you meditate. The idea that we’re supposed to “clear our mind” can feel daunting. How do you clear a mind that is full and running like wild horses? Most folks new to meditation don’t stick with it, because they think they’re doing it wrong. Newsflash: We’re all doing it wrong. One of the hardest parts about being new at something is allowing the early days to be messy. If you’re Type A like me, we don’t do messy. It needs to look fucking perfect out the gate, or let’s move on and stop meditating. I’m here to tell you, it’s challenging at first, and don’t worry about doing it wrong. 

There’s an old yoga teacher adage: Ears are for hearing, eyes are for seeing, noses are for smelling, and brains are for thinking. The idea that the average human can turn off their thinking is cruelty. Clearing your mind may come many years and hours of meditation down the line, but not at first. At first, it’s our job to notice that we are thinking. Let me explain…

When we meditate, we are developing the fitness of our inner witness. Read that line again. We are working to build muscle around our ability to notice that we are thinking or have drifted off into thought, away from the present moment. Let me keep explaining! Most of us drift into thought all day long and don’t have the awareness that we are in thought, we simply accept this thinking as our reality. We can develop the awareness to recognize that we are thinking, or obsessing, or drifting back into old memories or anxieties, and decide to stop doing that. 

However, if we have no awareness that we have drifted into thought we begin to buy into this version of reality. The reality that says “whatever I’m thinking right now is true and real.” In fact, many of the things we think are not true and real, they are just thoughts (remember the farts). They come and they go, thoughts are fleeting moments.

When we sit in meditation it’s best to have a physical point of focus. This will serve as your anchor to the present moment. Think of this exactly in the way that an anchor works, it keeps your mind from drifting away. The anchor can be our breath, chanting, mudras, essential oils, a candle flame, or any physical point of focus that helps us to stay present to the here and now. Inevitably and assumedly, our minds will drift from this focal point. No biggie! We just call it back to the anchor. The moment you notice your thoughts have drifted from the point of focus, you call it back. This might happen 100 times. We bring ourselves back 101.

I have days where I sit down on my meditation cushion and the wild horses run…for the whole 10 minutes. The victory is that I am aware the horses are having a free for all. The fact that I noticed this was happening is the work.  I am aware of the fact that I am thinking and that my thoughts are moving fast. It’s not about what happens on the cushion, it’s about consistency and practice. We train ourselves to notice, and to keep coming back. No matter how many times it takes, we keep coming back.

Meditation may get easier, or it may not. The point is just to do it. One time I was on a group call with my teacher, Baron Baptiste. He asked us how our meditation practices were coming along and I raised my hand to share. I was feeling super proud about my meditation practice and I was gonna tell everyone on the group call about it. After I finished bragging about how remarkable my morning sit is, I said to everyone “and now I’m thinking about adding in a second sit.” Baron's response to me was, “don’t think about meditation, just meditate.”

So that’s what I leave you with, dear friend. Don’t worry if you’re doing it wrong, don’t worry if it feels hard. It’s like that for most of us, especially when we’re new. My greatest suggestion is to find a teacher. That teacher could be me, or it could be a teacher you find on a meditation app, or anywhere meditation teachers hang out. I find when learning something new, having instruction minimizes the amount of bullshit I put myself through. All of the yoga classes I teach include meditation after we practice asana. Many agree that practicing meditation after moving the body helps to tame the wild horses a bit. If anything, the horses are tired and they’ll let you sit for a minute. Join me for class. I’d love to see you on the mat. 

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