When we’re first learning to meditate, one of the things we have to get used to is that the mind wanders much more than we might expect.
We discover, perhaps, that we can’t go more than two or three breaths without the mind latching on to some thought that’s appeared and going for a long trek through our memories, fantasies, expectations about the future, and so on.
At first this might be frustrating. We get annoyed with ourselves, or with our minds, for being so distractible. We perhaps blame ourselves, and suspect that we’re not cut out for meditation, or worse at it than other people. Meditation seems a bit like hard work.
We learn, … Read more »
The ancient Romans had a special punishment for those guilty of parricide, which involved sewing the guilty party into a leather sack and tossing him into a river or the ocean. This, according to Cicero, symbolized how the heinousness of the offender’s crime sundered him from the realm of natural law.
This punishment evolved over time, with the addition to the sack of animals such as a viper and a dog. Eventually four animals were used, and this became the classical form of this punishment, which was known as the poena cullei.
It’s hard to imagine how horrible this would have been. Suffocating would be awful enough, but throughout the ordeal you’d have two … Read more »
Beginners to meditation are often disappointed, annoyed, or despondent about many thoughts arise in meditation. They want to get rid of these thoughts, especially since many of them are emotionally troubling and cause stress, anxiety, and other forms of suffering.
Long-term meditators, of course, learn to accept the arising of thoughts, and so they don’t get upset about them.
Something that can benefit not just beginners, but people with many years of experience of meditation, is that we don’t need to do anything to get rid of our thoughts!
That may sound a bit puzzling. Here’s a bit of context to help you make sense of what I mean.
We tend to be very focused … Read more »
For several years, around the time I first learned to meditate, I lived in an apartment above Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow—one of the city’s main shopping streets. Sometimes it was acutely noisy, with newspaper hawkers advertising their wares, workmen digging up the roads, drunks singing as they staggered home from the pub, or couples having loud—and very public—fights. But even at the best of times there was a chronic, ongoing hum from the thousands of surrounding vehicles, and the quieter babble of pedestrians’ voices. This was something I had to get used to when I was meditating.
At first I would battle to shut out the noise, and try to force myself to focus inward … Read more »
As we meditate, thoughts bubble up. Many people are bothered when this happens, and tell themselves that there’s something wrong or that they’re no good at meditating. But having a lot of thoughts arise is OK. Our minds produce thoughts. It’s natural.
While bubbles in water contain gases, the thought bubbles that arise in the mind contain stories. Sometimes the stories inside these bubbles are emotionally compelling, and we can’t resist sticking our heads inside to see what’s going on. The bubble now surrounds our head like a 3D holographic display, complete with images, sounds, and tactile and other sensory information. And the story we’re witnessing is interactive! We now start playing the role of … Read more »
Chloé Morrison, Nooga.com: Meditation is not about clearing the mind fully; it’s not about not thinking.
It’s about focusing the mind; it’s about training the mind to stop its chaotic cycle of obsessive, counterproductive thoughts.
It’s about focusing on the present moment, the value of which can only truly be felt through practice. (And once you start really noticing the present moment, you recognize how much we are in a zombielike, autopilot mode for too much of our lives.)
But it’s inevitable that thoughts scamper into our minds during meditation, and that point is often confusing to anyone who hasn’t practiced.
As opposed to …
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is when we observe our experience rather than merely participate in our experience. When we’re unmindful, we’re certainly experiencing, but we’re “merely participating” in that experience, swept along in the flow of our thoughts and fantasies, caught up in thinking without being aware of what we’re doing and what effect it’s having on us, and not realizing that we have the choice to do anything else.
When we’re mindful, we observe our experience. We know that we’re thinking. We’re aware of what effect our thinking is having (for example that it’s making us or others unhappy). We’re aware we have choices about what we do and what we think.
And that’s … Read more »
In the book My Stroke of Insight, brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor explains that the natural life span of an emotion—the average time it takes for it to move through the nervous system and body—is only a minute and a half, a mere ninety seconds. After that, we need thoughts to keep the emotion rolling. So, if we wonder why we lock into painful emotional states like anxiety, depression, or rage, we need look no further than our own endless stream of inner dialogue.
Modern neuroscience has discovered a fundamental truth: Neurons that fire together, wire together. When we rehearse a looping set of thoughts and emotions, we create deeply grooved patterns of emotional reactivity. … Read more »
Anna Maltby, Huffington Post: “I’m terrible at trying to meditate — I can never shut off my brain or sit still!” Sound familiar? You know practices like mindfulness meditation are good for you, but they just seem so counter to our 20-tabs-open-at-a-time lifestyle that it’s hard to imagine where to start. We asked Marianela Medrano, Ph.D., a licensed professional counselor and member of the American Counseling Association, for help. Let’s start National Relaxation Day off on a good foot, shall we?
1. It’s not about saying “om” over and over again.
Unlike some types of meditation, you don’t have to say a mantra or try …
Fred Cicetti, LiveScience.com: Meditation definitely reduces stress. And too much stress is bad for your health.
There is some research that indicates meditation may help with: Allergies, anxiety, asthma, binge eating, cancer, depression, fatigue, heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, sleep difficulties and substance abuse.
I started meditating in 1976, when Dr. Herbert Benson published his book, “The Relaxation Response.”
The techniques he advocated work. In the years since, I’ve found that, when I forget to meditate, I get a stress buildup. As soon as I meditate, I feel better. And the effects of the meditation carry through the day.
I studied Zen Buddhist …