I started meditating 12 years ago, At that time, my mind was very restless, I used to get worked up over small things, and I needed all the help I could get.
My first foray into the world of meditation was quite awkward. I sat on the floor with my back against the wall and legs crossed (I couldn’t do the fancy “lotus position”). I started a timer for 20 minutes, and focused on my breath as it entered and exited my nostrils.
It seemed to last that long, to be sure. But, when I opened my eyes to see how much time had passed, it was barely over three minutes. I immediately got frustrated. Thereafter, I decided to be diligent, though, and closed my eyes again. This time I only made it to two minutes.
So, what do you think actually happened? Well, I discovered that my mind was absolutely crazy. In five minutes of meditating, it bounced around to subjects spanning from school related stuff to how I can clear the dreaded “Demolition Man” stage on the Grand Theft Auto : Vice City video game. I got sidetracked thinking about somebody that had angered me a few years earlier, and then I thought about something that I had said to a friend last week that inadvertently upset him.
My mind jumped to different video games that I needed to play, and I wondered if I put a stamp on the envelope I dropped at the post office that morning (I mean, I couldn’t remember — did I?). I thought about what I needed to do for a school function that was coming up Friday afternoon.
Then, I thought about “Lord Of The Rings” Why? Maybe because I loved that series of movies so much, maybe not, I have no idea why it popped into my head.
My mind was like a puppy, awkwardly hopping from object to object, and unable to settle on any one thing for more than a few seconds. And the really bad part was that I could do nothing to stop it . I tried to — I “willed” myself to stop it, I commanded myself to stop it…all to no avail.
It wasn’t until some time later that I began to study more about the effects of meditation on our minds, and I came to understand how it actually works. Our minds are compulsive —they never stop. Have you ever said “My mind is racing?” Or, “I can’t stop thinking?” Your mind (just like my mind) is always going — those moments of realization you have about your mind racing are just the few times you actually noticed it.
Your mind keeps you up at night, it pulls you into the past to make you regret things you did or didn’t do, it creates worries about the future, and it forces you to dwell on (and stress about) so many things: that person who wronged you at work or school, your money problems, an imagined confrontation where you “drop the mic” on your boss or exact revenge on that irritable oaf that cut you off on the way home.
Maybe it creates an alternate reality where you fantasize that you are a secret agent, or an Academy Award winner.
The good news is, meditation can help. It teaches you to cultivate awareness of your mind and its activity to observe it all without getting swept away by it. When meditating, you come to find that you can watch your thoughts without getting caught up in them. And, as a result, you are able to break the cycle of “knee-jerk” reactions that dominate much of life.