It occurred to me this morning that many people may still be taking the wrong approach to meditation; specifically, mindfulness meditation. The problem might be that they are spending too much time meditating, but not enough time simply being mindful. If you’ve read my blog before, or watched my videos, then you know meditation can have a profound impact on your life. It can improve your mood, reduce your stress, and even transform your view of the world; however, it cannot do these things magically.
Suppose you’re someone who starts meditating because you feel depressed. You’re not exactly sure why you’re depressed; you just know you haven’t felt happy for a while, so you decide to try meditation because you hear all these good things about it and how it can help with depression. You sit quietly in a dark room with your legs crossed and you try to concentrate on “nothing.”
What happens? Probably not a whole lot… There’s nothing magical about sitting quietly thinking about this proverbial “nothing” you always hear everyone going on about. And that’s the problem. Too many people have this stereotypical western view of what meditation is. They conflate it with generalized concepts of yogis, mystics, and monks exiling themselves in remote caves far from society for months at a time. Then they spend an hour in their living room sitting on the floor with their legs crossed, trying not to think about anything until they realize it’s pretty much impossible, figure they’re doing it wrong, and they give up.
Mindfulness meditation has nothing to do with quietly sitting in an awkward position while trying to switch your brain off. You could almost say it’s the opposite. Mindfulness is about being in touch with the present moment, including your own thoughts. Perhaps a good approach to meditation would be to not try to meditate in any formal sense, but rather let your mind wander. Instead of trying to block your thoughts from entering your mind, let them come and go freely; just don’t let yourself get wrapped up in them.
By letting your thoughts flow freely without judging them or getting too caught up in any particular idea, you can learn to look at your thoughts from and outside perspective, and it may even help you get to the bottom of something, like why you’re feeling depressed, stressed out, anxious, etc… At the very least, it will relieve some of the tension from being too wrapped up in your thoughts, day in and day out.
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