This was part of an email that arrived this morning, and with my readings and meditation I did during the weekend, I think I am getting the message that meditation is not about emptying your mind of thoughts, as that just won’t happen. If this is your aim, you are setting yourself up to fail.
Here are Dr. Elise Bialylew‘s words, taken straight from her Mindfulness in May challenge…
There are many myths and stereotypes around meditation. One of them is that the aim of meditation is to empty your mind of thoughts.
Often when people start to meditate they notice how busy the mind is during practice and they think they are “bad” meditators.
The fact is the mind makes thoughts. Like the eyes see, the ears hear, the skin feels, the tongue tastes, the nose smells… THE MIND THINKS.
The average person has about 70,000 thoughts a day. That means in a ten minute meditation you’ll probably be having about 486 thoughts… (from me – WOW – how amazing is that!!)
The purpose of practising mindfulness meditation is not to eliminate thoughts but rather to become more familiar with the nature of our minds, and become more able to unhook from thoughts rather than be hijacked by them.
This helps us reduce the “stickiness of the mind”,( as Richie Davidson describes in his interview), that is, the tendency of the mind to cling and ruminate on particular (usually unhelpful) thoughts which then impact our emotional state. Cultivating mindfulness supports our capacity to CHOOSE what we are paying attention to and how we are relating to our experience, both internally and in relation to the outside world.
I really like the way Richie Davidson describes thoughts as ‘sticky’ and I have become much more aware this weekend, of just letting thoughts pass on by and not hold on to them and get caught up in going over and over the same thing.
The other thing that has been a lesson for me this weekend was that we can be feeling a bit rotten inside (in my case, anxious), but instead of me focusing on that feeling and working myself up into feeling worse because I am being a pest/inconveniencing other people etc., I can observe these feelings and realize that they will soon disappear. I did this and all the sting went out of the anxiety, for a while at least. So this is another thing for me to include and remember to practice in my daily life.
Susan Piver is another meditative practitioner, like Elise Bialylew. I listened to Elise interview her and have since joined her free project called ‘The Open Heart’ project. On her blog, there are many meditations and she emphasizes as well, to let thoughts go and don’t beat yourself up for having them.
I feel I have some great resources now to strongly continue my journey into the practice of meditation. It is soooo worth it!