I won’t kid you. Meditation has been an important part of my life, even when I was a child and didn’t even know that I was meditating.
It’s possible that you might be “meditating” without even knowing that you are doing it.
For a brief moment, I’m going to ask you to suspend your beliefs about the concept of “meditation” and replace those instead with a concept of “focused thought.”
At the very least, think of meditation and focused thought as twin sisters — and potentially life changing sisters at that.
Meditation/ Focused Thought can be a powerful tool and yet many who decide to try meditation find their mind racing and believe that they are doing it “wrong”.
In my experience, this usually develops when we become distracted by the supposed “rules” of meditation versus the bigger purpose and intended outcome.
We become obsessed with the form, the specifics instead of aligning with the larger “flow”.
That critical inner narrative flips into overdrive. The “what’s wrong with this picture” police swarm with a vengeance.
All of a sudden something that is supposed to be relaxing and empowering becomes incredibly stressful.
So what’s the solution?
In my experience, the best way around this is to smile and let go.
Let go of the belief that there is only one way to meditate. Let go of the belief that there is only one position in which to meditate. Let go of the belief that there can be no itching, no moving, no interruptions and no distracting thoughts.
Yes, LET GO.
So wait, am I saying that we can get the benefits of meditation if we pause to scratch our face? If we shift the leg that’s feeling uncomfortable?
Perhaps biggest of all: can we get those benefits without perfectly silencing all of that inner chatter?
In fact, your meditation/ focused thought ritual may bring you the most benefits when you stop worrying and calm down that critical inner voice.
It’s not whether we are thinking thoughts. It’s whether the thoughts that we are thinking during our meditation are focused and authentically empowering.
It’s whether we believe that any of those “distracting thoughts” matter or whether as my lovely yoga instructor Victoria would say, “they are just passing clouds meandering across a huge and lovely sky.”
So how do we begin to massage that chatty narrative into a calmer, more peaceful place?
The best place to start is by learning to “guide” our thoughts. Ideally, this should be something that we practice throughout our day, not simply during meditation.
Like dieting only on Mondays, if the only time that we attempt to deliberately focus our thoughts is during meditation, our results will probably be frustrating and cause us more tension than calm.
Initially, the primary purpose of a focused thought ritual is to feel more ease and what is now called “mindfulness”. We want to feel a sense of being totally present and fully alive in the moment.
As we advance, the goal becomes to feel the power of more focus, more connection and more deliberate creation.
For someone just starting out, the key word here should be “more”.
Meditation is not a contest or a test. Wherever you are now is absolutely perfect.
Like most things, meditation and deliberate focus will become more natural the more that you practice them.
A great place to begin practicing is out in nature. For some, they find their “zone” in a walking (or even running) “meditation”. Be flexible. For now, forget the “rules”. Focus on the experience.
Find what works for you.
Rather than focusing on events or challenges of the day, take this time to simply focus on your luscious surroundings. Give yourself the task of identifying things to appreciate in nature and then celebrate those moments.
Set the intention to see something remarkable and the Universe will deliver it every single time.
When you have mastered finding your peace in nature, you are ready to graduate to the great indoors.
Find a quiet spot and get comfortable where you can relax without falling asleep. Some people like to drape themselves with a blanket. Remember, it’s all (and only) about YOU.
As you are ready to begin, try using these 3 tips to deliberately guide your thoughts during these initial meditations / focused thought exercises:
1. START BY FOCUSING ON THE WORDS OF THE GUIDED MEDITATION OR CREATE A SOOTHING LANDSCAPE IN YOUR MIND. If you have tried telling your mind not to think a specific thought, you will probably realize that our minds don’t typically cooperate unless we are replacing the one thought with another thought — in this case, simply replace the disruptive thought with a thought that feels more soothing.
If your guide’s voice or a specific visualization can’t capture your attention, try shifting your focus to something that will empower you. Think of things in your life that make you feel gratitude. Create a mental list of recent successes. Begin sculpting a vision of your ideal life a month from now, 3 months from now, a year from now — without worrying about the “how”.
2. BE GENTLY PERSISTENT. Inevitably, you will think a thought that doesn’t feel soothing. No problem. Thank your mind for that thought and then gently replant the seed with a thought that feels better. Think of it like climbing a lovely hill where you just take one more soothing step followed by another. No big steps — simply one thought that feels as good or slightly better than the thought before.
3. FOCUS ON BREATHING. When our minds have a specific task, it can help to reduce the number of mental excursions that we take during meditation. Focusing on the inhale and the exhale can be a great way to simplify and guide the thoughts to a state of relaxation and calm. Imagine pulling energy from the mountains, the waterfalls, the stars to soothe and heal every aspect of your body.
The twin sisters –Meditation and Focused Thought — can be wonderful “reset” tools for our minds and yet like most tools, we do need to be patient as we learn to use them proficiently.
My primary advice to someone who is beginning to explore these is to begin practicing by becoming aware of your thoughts during your entire day.
Realize that you DO get to choose which thoughts you embrace and what you make each experience in your day mean in the overall context of your life.
Begin noticing when your thoughts do not empower or serve you and without judgment, begin practicing the process of replacing them with new, more productive ideas.
Many of us run through our day believing that our thoughts “are” who we are.
Begin applying a deliberate mindset to your day. Find your own way to make your daily meditations empower you.
As you spend more and more time building your own source of rocket fuel, your experiences will begin to change. Life will begin conforming more and more to your vision and before you know it, you will begin seeing what can only be called extraordinary results.
Today is another chapter in your bucket list journey. Each moment is brimming with potential, exploration and adventure.
Dive in. Create new “rules”. Play. Live. Love. Laugh and create.
The sky is the limit and you, dear one, have just soared high beyond what you thought were those limits!
P.S. — Here are a couple of guided meditations that Schuyler and I have enjoyed when we do our morning rituals. www.mindvalley.com can be another source of a wonderful guided meditation “quest”.
Originally published at meridithalexander.com