Meditation, Observation & Your Nervous System

Do you feel that you just can’t meditate because your mind is too busy? You are definitely not alone. Most people feel completely inept when observing others who appear to be sitting peacefully, disengaged from their thinking mind and completely comfortable in their body.  Well you know the phrase, “fake it till you make it?”. That’s what they are doing.  Just because someone is sitting still does not mean they are shielded from the never ending, non-stop chatter in their mind.  Meditation is referred to as a practice because no matter how many decades you have been doing it, it’s still a challenge and a practice. There really is no perfection of meditation. We are all a work in progress. Of course, teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh are in a separate category. For the rest of us, we practice.

Another misconception about meditation is that often people believe that somehow it is going to bring them to a state of relaxation.  Although this may eventually be true,  it may take a couple decades and lots of psycho-emotional therapy:) What often happens is that when you sit down for periods of time and really begin to observe what’s going on in your mind, it can be quite stressful.  It’s not easy to disengage from thinking and if your nervous system is stuck in fight or flight mode, aka sympathetic dominance or adrenaline dominance, then sitting still can be absolute torture.

Lastly, another misconception about meditation is that it is defined as listening to tapes and being verbally guided into bliss. Wrong! Although that can bring tremendous benefits to many, this is called guided relaxation. Guided relaxation doesn’t’ have much to do with the actual practice of meditation.  Meditation begins by observing your mind- and this can go on for years, decades or even lifetimes. Eventually, if you are lucky and decently disciplined, you will be able to practice concentration.  The practice of concentration comes after you have successfully mastered the art of interrupting your thoughts or not following them.  To call it “not-thinking” is quite lofty so I refer to it as thought interruption.  Interrupting thinking, no matter the method of how you do it, is like slicing a fresh baked loaf of bread right down the center. What’s in between the halves? Space. Spaciousness, the main side effect of concentrated meditation.  The sky between the clouds.  It is most likely the hardest thing you will ever do with your mind: concentrate on the space between thoughts, between the clouds.

What is meditation then? I call it observation. Meditation practice is observation practice. If you are able to create enough space or distance between you and your thoughts, then you can observe them. Right? Go ahead and try it. Set the timer for 10 minutes. Sit down and observe. At the end of 10 minutes I want you to write down what you observed.

Interesting, right?! I hope so. It can be the source of the greatest creativity you could ever tap into


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