Benefits of Meditation

What is Wrong With Thinking?

With all this meditation buzz going on everywhere, we can ask ourselves a question: if clearing my mind of thoughts is a practice with so many benefits, what on earth is wrong with thinking? The answer is, of course, nothing. There is nothing wrong with thinking. And it has no power over you, as long as you are in control.

Well, then how can any meditation practice of clearing my mind can have such a positive effect on my life? Because most of the time we are not in control of our thinking. We think we are, yet we have no idea until we start practicing meditation. We don't even need to start practicing. We can just try one session. If you don't meditate regularly, try to keep clear of thoughts for 5 minutes. 

I remember when I first try to meditate. Although I don't remember exactly what I was thinking about, it went something like this:

This is boring. Why can't I think of anything interesting? Oh, I'm not meant to be thinking. Ok, concentrate. Oh, yes, I made it a few seconds! Oh, I shouldn't have said it, now I have to start again. I should have had a cup of tea before I started. With some nice crunchy oat cookies! Ahh, I'm hungry now. Oh, damn, I forgot to pick that parcel from the post office! Gemmology is so awesome; I'd love to visit some of those gemstone mines, in all these exotic locations. 

Now I'm Imagining talking to a friendly old guy, who's showing me around in some underground mine, where sapphires and emeralds are sticking out of the ceiling. I'm feeling the heat and dampness of the mine. The air is soggy, it's deep. 

That essay I wrote yesterday looked pretty good, I think I should try and improve it. I'd love to see another sun from as close as we can see our sun. I wonder what Vega would look like if it's a Sun of the Earth. It would have to be a lot further because I think it's bigger than the Sun. Is it bigger? I'm sure it is. Ok, but why am I sure, I need to check somewhere, just so I am really sure, not pretend. Oh. I'm meant to be meditating. Shoot, this is damn difficult!

And so it went. What shocked me most, is when I notice that I can run like 5 threads of thoughts simultaneously, or at least if felt like it. I would think about cookies, and while still thinking of cookies I think about cosmology and interstellar travels. Then maybe complain about my inability to know what I want or to be useful, or maybe be jealous of some people who have what I think I want, then maybe think about travelling, and imagine myself on a train in India, then suddenly think I wonder what living in Tokyo is like, then whilst still continuing the food thought, I'm smelling fish markets of Tokyo, and feeling hot freshness of matcha in my mouth whilst learning Japanese kanji. But in the meantime, I'm also thinking about tomorrows day at work, The Beatles, star sapphires and Jupiter. And this is when I'm intending to meditate. I mean, wtf?! I know, it sounds like I'm not a busy person. I guess, I really don't have too many worries. Or I do, but I seem to never think about them, which annoys my boyfriend a little. The truth is, I'm a bit like a teenager: I want, dream, and think that everything is going to work out when I'm a famous whatever and there will never be any problems. Well, this is a very simplified example, but it's kind of a truth. That's the exact reason I had to get into personal development! There was and still is an awful lot of room for improvement - I've got a lot of room to move! In recent years, things are moving a lot better, although I still have quite extreme high and low periods, but this is irrelevant. 

The Now Moment

I realized, that saying meditation is difficult was an understatement at that point. Why did I have so many thoughts constantly running around my head? It's like I live there, with all those neighbors that are all different versions of me in different situations and none of them are relevant to what I'm doing here and now. They jump and intertwine uncontrollably fast variating between smells, sounds, peoples faces, conversations that I had and wish I said something better than what I did, and a lot of other stuff. Most of them don't even have any end before they swap for something else more interesting. When I consciously tried to stop them "Wait! I need to finish this thought thread! Oh, and that other one. Oh, what else was there? 

I couldn't believe it. Most of my life I thought of myself as a relatively calm and laid-back person. I didn't have I was going to have much of a challenge learning to meditate. While my friends would agree, why couldn't I keep my mind under control? I'm not stressed. I don't have much to worry about. Yet I can't stop thinking. What on earth is wrong with me?

I thought meditation was easy. I thought I would just sit there, maybe shine away a few thoughts, but I can certainly achieve 10 minutes. Like hell. And it didn't start getting easier fast. I think I stopped the first time I tried and didn't try until a year later. Then maybe another month later. I delayed until I had to start accepting, that this is going to take some dedication. I had to learn in baby steps, no way I was becoming some meditation expert in 30 days. Just like so many other things we learn in life, I would just have to try over and over and see where it takes me. 

We all think we are perfectly capable of controlling our thoughts until we actually try. After continued meditation practice, we realize, how much nonsense we think. Later on in a process, we realize how much we complain. How much we constantly judge, ourselves as well as others. How much time we spend creating our self-image. It's shocking. Surely, life can continue without all this. 

The first excuse that comes up is that thinking makes you feel better. Complaining discharges your anger, disappointment, and fear into something else - thought. But if we observe more closely, this is not exactly what happens. While thoughts are charged by emotions, emotions are charged by thoughts. Emotion arises when something is threatening our self-image or self-esteem. When we feel valued or undervalued to ourselves and others, in whatever shape or form that comes. We always feel very self-important.

When we feel insecure, threatened and fearful, when we feel, that whatever we have here and now is not good enough, we simply can not accept the reality we have now. In his book The Power of Now, Echart Tolle says that there is this moment, and there is your life situation. Being single, married, broke or rich, fat, fit, or a target of other peoples intentions that are threatening your well-being or having certain responsibilities is a life situation. While this moment is just what is. This moment you just are. You are maybe sharing a cigarette with a friend in a middle of the night on a tall railway bridge, or playing cards with your lover. But this moment is even smaller. This moment does not need any labels of what you're currently in a process of doing, it's enough to just feel the absolute is-ness of now. This is what advancing in meditation practices helps us achieve.

One of the techniques of the ancient breathing practices, Pranayama, is trying to catch that little moment between the in and the out breath. It's so short, so hard to catch that you spend all your time in laser sharp focus. It's catching the moment. This is the state of no-mind. We cannot waiver in such quest, for as soon as a single thought comes in, we might miss it. Time does not exist in this moment. Time only exists with thoughts. 

Thoughts can be put into two categories: useless thoughts and action taking thoughts.

Useless Thoughts

Useless thoughts are exactly that: useless. Complaints, judgments, daydreams about better future or better past, anger towards what happened in the past, self-pity, self-doubt, guilt. Unfortunately, these are so incredibly plentiful in our heads, that more often than not, they completely take over our lives, leaving very little room for what I would call action thoughts. 

Useless thoughts may feel like they're providing some kind of pleasure. All of them normally have the desired effect on our emotions. This is not pleasure. The real pleasure is very momentary, however, the satisfaction we feel when we complain about something is a bottomless well that can never be filled up. What we're trying to fill up are our shortcomings that we created for ourselves in the past, using other useless, self-important thoughts. 

These thoughts not only eat into our time of doing but also eat into our energy that we need for taking that action. These are the thoughts that are responsible for all the things you don't like about your life situation you currently find yourself in. 

Action Thoughts

These are the thoughts that are at our service, the ones we can use for our development as humans. Deduction and logic, combined with creativity and curiosity which comes from the energy freed up by dismissing useless thoughts out of our lives, can make us unstoppable. However, if we're not careful to find the right balance, these can also take over, narrowing our focus and preventing us from seeing a big picture, which in itself would eventually result in losing track of your intent. This is what I was talking about in my previous article on focus. Meditation, or the ability to clear your mind, help us focus on every baby step we're taking, without loosing track of your horizon, or the direction you want to move towards.

Madness

In Toltec ways of knowledge, this controlling obsessing mind is actually seen as a separate entity, that cloaks your essence, your inner being from the truth. Only when we loose this cloak, we can really see what truly is, without looking through a distorted lens of pre-conditioned mind patterns. We can be ourselves.

For very few people this happens suddenly and unexpectedly. These are the people who can almost entirely be possessed by the mind, and who often are near the edge of suicide or madness. It's suffering, depression of the highest level. Very few finally surrender, lose their cloak and find what we call Enlightenment, a permanent state of presence, with their thoughts under their command. 

For others, it has to be achieved by entrainment. We, who bubble through our lives, sometimes joyful, sometimes rough, constantly daydreaming about a better future or a better past. We, who achieve things we might have dreamed of achieving, but find only emptiness at the top. We who wonder, lost in continuous array of thoughts, of what is our purpose? What is that thing that I really want? What is it, that would bring me the fullness of life, that would fill up the bottomless well of emptiness? 

We try to fill it with friends, family, intimate relationships, new experiences and it seems to work for the time being. But as soon as those moments pass, we're back in a state of daydream, waiting for that next moment, for that next great trip that may come in a week, or in a year or it may never come. 

Don't get me wrong, family and friends are great to have, but they are not essential for you to have your inner peace. For a long time I couldn't understand, why would people want peace in their lives? I wanted excitement and experiences, peace was the last thing I thought of. But recently I understood what peace actually means. Peace is a state of mind where you are truly yourself, and truly in control of your mind. It does not take away from any of our experiences, but enriches and clarifies them. 

With a growth of mind orientated philosophy and goals in mind, we achieved great things. We created beautiful civilization, that had lived through all sorts of misery caused by the uncontrolled mind, and made many sacrifices to stand where we are now - in the age of incredible scientific achievements. Unfortunately, our societal achievements are lagging way behind a truly powerful and creative civilization. 

Yes, we managed to ban slavery from a mainstream culture. While human trafficking and enslavement is still happening all over the world, it slowly diminishes. It's no longer the norm of our civilization, but a dirty little secret. Yes, there is work to do, but some cultures are still lacking clarity and compassion. This shift will take time. 

We understood the importance of freedom of speech. Yet current political agendas are doing their best to take it away from us without us noticing, and they even look for us to support it!

Not only we wage war, but we are gradually destroying our planet. Although science is at its peak, we are still afraid to move forward and take a leap of faith towards sustainable resources. Soils are depleted, factory farming is spreading worldwide, ocean and land pollution continues on a daily basis, and we still have people dying of hunger. What on earth is that all about? We are the barbarians of a New Age, and a lot more dangerous than a few cavemen with a club or even an army of Conans. All of this, thanks to our minds. 

We evolved our minds to the point that we are becoming crazy. Our minds don't stop, we hear voices in our head all the time, we become emotional over craziest shit, while other people blow each other up away from your home. 

Meditation Helps us Stay in Control of Our Mind

It's time to take our mind, this precious gift that we have and step on a new evolutionary level. Let the curiosity take over. Let our wondering be the stars in the sky and the earth and oceans beneath or feet, and not just new ways to destroy more efficiently. Let our wondering be each other the unity that we really are and our connection to the rest of the universe. For this to happen, we need to start taking control of our mind. Once we do, We will find clarity and we will find peace, in the truest sense of this word. 

This is why, when we start meditating, things start to change not only in the way you see the world but on a physical place. You might meet people you would never have guessed you'd meet, at the time that you least expected. You may find new opportunities come your way, and even if they are not big ones, it empowers you to have a choice. When you meditate, you feel less stuck, with more room for movement. Once the practice level increases, so do the benefits. And you realize that it is just a taste of freedom that you have within you.

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