Thought Awareness Training
Meditation or what I call “thought awareness training” is the key to the prison door in personal expansion. It is absolutely the foundation for creating positive self- change. We cannot change what we are not aware of, and most people are not aware of the thoughts that their mind is manufacturing all day long. Instead, they spend their day unknowingly and helplessly “reacting” to the thoughts their mind creates. They do not experience the power and the freedom that comes from possessing the ability to direct their mind’s energy.
For years I have strongly encouraged people to bring a daily meditation practice into their life even if it is only 10 to 20 minutes a day. The word “meditation” is nothing more than a label for a process of focusing your attention internally instead of externally which is where it usually is.
There are a number of different types of meditation that are popular but in the context of developing The Practicing Mind I recommend either a breath-based meditation or a mantra (phrase) based meditation. What we are trying to do in this practice is to quiet our mind. We want our mind to initiate fewer thoughts, and we want to raise our awareness of what thoughts our mind is creating. In my opinion, after many years of studying and participating in different types of meditative practices, these two systems are best at accomplishing that goal.
Guided meditations have many wonderful benefits. However, because they are based on instruction they require you to think in order to process the instructions and as I said we don’t want to encourage thinking but instead we want the thought process to slow down as much as possible. We want to become more the observer of the thoughts we are having.
Usually, our mind has a thought, and we become immersed in the emotional reaction to the content of that thought. Instead of being in command of the process, we are instead a puppet who is exhausted by constant mental activity which drains us of energy we could be directing into our desired activity using our Will.
The mechanics of these two meditation forms are quite simple. With a breath-based meditation, you assume a posture which is comfortable and your spine is erect. When you allow your spine to hunch over it promotes drowsiness. This position can be sitting in a chair, sitting cross-legged or some people kneel on a pillow and place a separate pillow between their heels and the back of their thighs for comfort.
You need a posture which is physically comfortable. Otherwise, your body can then become a distraction as you try to focus internally. You close your eyes and you simply watch your body breath. The temptation is to try to “control” your breathing. You must resist this and instead just relax and watch your body naturally breath. Your body knows how to breathe without your instruction and as you relax, it will slip into a comfortable rhythm.
In a mantra-based meditation once again you assume a comfortable position and for this form you close your eyes and “hear” a short phrase over and over again in your mind. I like to see a phrase that is three words or less such as “I am still”, “I am calm”, “I am quiet” whatever feels calming to you. The purpose of the phrase in this context is to give your mind a bone to chew on, something simple to help discourage its desire to run all over the place visiting many situations.
What will happen?…….initially it will all seem so simple with either form. But pretty quickly into the session your mind will get board of the inactivity and go into search mode. You may or may not notice it at first, but at some point, you will “wake up” to the fact that you are not “in the present moment” but instead the mind has taken you into the future anticipating a situation or reliving something in the past perhaps reevaluating it. When you wake up to the mind’s wandering you simply acknowledge it and bring it back to the task of either watching your breath or repeating your mantra. The mind is like a toddler in a toy store. It just can’t wait to explore; this is its nature. It is a problem-solving tool and judging by the fact that we no longer live in caves it is quite good at this. However, it definitely doesn’t like to sit still. We could talk about this for many pages, but for the purposes here, enough is said.
What is important to understand is that there is no such thing as a bad meditation session. Some days you will be stressed, and your mind will run off more easily. Other days you will be calmer and your mind will be more still. It is important to understand that you do not master meditation in the traditional sense. Meditation is like exercise. We do not master exercise. Participating in a daily exercise program is part of our well-being. Meditation is the same, and when we miss a meditation or two, we do not judge ourselves. We acknowledge the growth of our awareness, and we bring ourselves back to our meditation practice. This is the “practice”.
What this will bring into your life is beyond description. Besides a peaceful sense that will creep into your life, situations that at one time had been very stressful will seem much more distant and unable to shake you off balance. You will stop being so involved in your thoughts and be much more the observer and the director of your thoughts. As I said 10 to 20 minutes a day is enough to strengthen your will and bring these experiences into your life. As your practice progresses, you will find that you look forward to this time of quietude. Our culture has become so mentally hyper that you will find even 10 minutes in a meditative state extremely refreshing.
Many people also enjoy what is called a sound scape meditation for calming their mind. A sound scape meditation can be a nature sound such as a meadow in the morning, a forest at night, or the rolling surf of the ocean. Others may be textural sounds and often these two are combined with scattered simple musical motifs. Also, some people prefer using what is referred to as a “primordial” sound such as “Ah” or “Om” as their mantra or phrase. I have provided both a sound scape and a primordial sounds option in the Institute store, and there are many others available.
Soundscape Meditations offer an opportunity to “unplug” from the outside world, relax and to get lost in the evolving ebb and flow of the composition. As a sailor and longtime lover of quiet walks on the beach, Tom Sterner created “Celtic Sea Shore” as his first soundscape meditation, with more to follow.
Meditating Mind Audio
The Meditating Mind audio was designed to introduce a beginner to the concepts of meditation. It is intended for and is a great starting place for those who have never meditated or perhaps for someone wanting to try a form different than what they are used to.