“You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Do you find meditation challenging? Perhaps you became interested in meditation because you thought it would help you gain control over your mind. However, when you sat down, closed your eyes, and tried your best to experience the bliss of pure consciousness, you likely found yourself distracted by a constant stream of thoughts and feelings. Instead of an expansive, oceanic experience of universal oneness, it was more like floating helplessly on the surface of an angry sea- the waves and currents tossing you around and dragging you under. This experience can be very discouraging, perhaps leading you to believe that you're doing it wrong. You might even feel like your inability to stop thinking during meditation makes you a failure. Maybe meditation is just not meant for you?
But don’t give up hope just yet! You’re being way too hard on yourself! Trying to stop your mind from creating thoughts is like trying to stop the ocean from creating waves. It’s impossible! The ocean will always generate waves- that’s what the ocean does. Likewise, the mind will always generate thoughts because that’s what the mind does- that’s what the mind is. Meditation is not so much about stopping your thoughts as it is about stopping your resistance to them. It’s not about striving for complete inner silence, it’s about training yourself to feel at ease with the passage of time- learning to breathe, relax and be at peace as time goes by. As the author Sharon Salzberg explains, “We don’t meditate to get better at meditating, we meditate to get better at life.”
If you are meditating and you find yourself distracted by a thought, instead of resisting it or feeling guilty about it, ask yourself where that thought came from. Why is it coming up now? How does it make you feel inside? What is the underlying emotional energy attached to the thought that needs to be recognized and released? As the saying goes, you’ve got to feel it to heal it. By going with the wave to the source of the thought, as opposed to shutting it out, you can begin the process of healing and letting go. Now you are free to move back into the infinite stillness of the eternal now, appreciating the precious space between thoughts... until the next wave arrives.
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About The Author
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being. Influenced by the ideas of Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass, and Deepak Chopra, Nick presents his unique take on human existence with the goal of helping others live a happier life.