Monday, December 9, 2013

Meditation is so Scary

I don't blame you for not trying.  I mean, really.... Sitting down in a comfortable spot to try and clear your mind from a stressful and noisy day just to gain a little peace and quiet - terrifying, I know.

People need noise. Rather, people seem to need outside noise to distract them.  To distract them from what, you ask?  The noise in their own head.

Why do you turn your TV on?  For entertainment, sure. To relax? To numb out the rest of the world and do something "mindless?"

Believe it or not, you are filling your mind with just as much "noise" as when you were thinking about work on your afternoon commute home.

Sit still just for a minute. I don't care where you are.  If you are at work, close your eyes and breathe in. Just notice how long your inhale is - but don't change it. Breathe out and just recognize that you are breathing.  Now take an intentional inhale in, and make it a bit more audible by slightly closing off the back of your throat to make it sound like a wave.  Same for the exhale.  Now feel your belly expand on your next inhale and pause for a second at the top of your breath. Exhale, making it audible, feeling your core tighten as you push all the air out.  Pause at the end of the out-breath.  Open your eyes.  You were just consciously aware of your breath for a few moments in time.  In this moment.  Wasn't that scary?!?!!?

This simple tool is something you can do ANY time of day, ANY day of the week, ANYtime, ANYwhere.

Are you ever home alone and find yourself getting fidgety?  If you don't turn the TV on, you grab your phone and if you're sick of playing with apps or checking in on social media, you just have to call someone - just to find out what they're doing - or - to hear yourself talk.  Sound familiar?

We find it so boring to be by ourselves sometimes, and even more than that - scary.  Not so much that something is going to happen to us or that someone will do something to us but what the mind is actually capable of thinking or leading us to believe.

I have a friend who spends much of his time thinking about how he wants a different job opportunity to pop up so he can feel happy.  I have another friend who is always trying to fill up every minute of her calendar so she doesn't have to stay home alone.  I see people who worry about what might happen in a job situation or who are looking outside of themselves for some kind of fulfillment - and they look for distraction, a hobby, someone to hang out with to try and get their mind off of the stresses in their lives and on to something else - ANYthing - other than being by themselves.

I crave solitude.  I love when I have that rare opportunity when all is quiet around me when I wake up, or moments before I lay my head on my pillow.  Not that I don't love being around people - it's one of my favorite things.  I also don't mind watching TV once in a while if I think I will learn something from it or be entertained.  But to get an opportunity in the busyness of life to sit and be aware of your breath - which allows you to cultivate awareness - is something to value and to take advantage of.  Even if you are watching TV - try to be aware of why you are watching it.  Are you watching it to be entertained or to run from something in your mind?  If you're running, it's going to be right there again when the show or movie ends.

I was recently in a meditation class and the teacher invited us to talk about our experience with meditation at home.  I commented at how lucky I feel when I stop at a red light!  I invite you to try the above exercise on breathing the next time you are stopped at a red light or in a traffic jam...except...uhhh...don't close your eyes.  You will realize that you can use and come back to this tool at every moment during the day when your mind starts wandering and creating stories.

Meditation is a scary word.  But you can change the word if you want.  Just call it "Being aware of why you are doing something in this moment." Just call it "Being."

Jon Kabat-Zinn points it out clearly: "We tend to be particularly unaware that we are thinking virtually all the time."  Now liken this to an athlete or, if you are one, think about running for 3 days without stopping.  Think about swimming for a week without a break.  Your body needs rest.  In order for muscles to grow and be healthy, they need rest and nutrition.  Your mind needs rest.  Some people might think, "Well, yea, that's what sleeping is for!" But have you ever gone to bed thinking about something that is stressing you out, and then woken up thinking about that same thing?  Your mind didn't rest.

Kabat-Zinn likens this "mindstream" that is constantly flowing to a river.  Imagine you are caught up in this fast-flowing river that takes you places (in your mind) that are scary, fast-moving, dangerous. "Meditation means learning how to get out of this current, sit by its bank and listen to it, and then use its energies to guide us rather than to tyrannize us." Jon Kabat-Zinn

Next time you are not in traffic, try the above exercise again and if you notice a thought come up, just be aware of it - notice that it is a thought flowing in this noisy river - and just let it float by.  Tomorrow, try it again.  You'll notice that you'll start to be aware of the present moment in the strangest places - in traffic when someone cuts you off, at work when you're feeling stressed, when the kids are crying and you can't seem to get anything done.  Or, you might want to try a little of the Bad Boys Woosah technique - whatever works.  Just start to be aware of when you've disappeared to your own mind (Hello in there!) and that your breath is always there to bring you into the now.

Om Namah