When you are silent, It speaks ~Zen Poem
There are many misconceptions surrounding meditation. From my observations, people either envision Buddha meditating or they see meditation as a way of ___ing. Either is misleading.
To those envisioning Buddha: they place expectations on themselves of spiritual disciplines. Lotus postures, ascetic limitation, yoga, and so forth. Often the cart gets placed before the horse. Buddha himself said to expect nothing, yet we all tend to place the highest expectations on ourselves and our lives.
To those __ing: meditation is the opposite of any -ing. What I mean when I say that is, it is non-action. If you are trying to meditate, you are not meditating. That has been my rule of thumb since day 1. If you seek anything from meditation, you will find disappointment. An expectation is a built-in disappointment. That’s often attributed to Buddha, but it’s an AA saying. I’m pretty sure Buddha would dig it, though. With meditation being taught as a psychological “coping” skill, you are putting legs on a snake and slowing down. Inherently, meditation starts with “Am I calm yet? Am I less depressed yet?”
Am I Zen Yet?
Expectations are thoughts. Thoughts are us talking to ourselves. When I started my journey into meditation, I had a basic understanding that I was to “silence my mind”. As I tried to silence my mind, it got much noisier. In place of my usual chatter, I had new thoughts of me trying to get me to quiet down. Guided meditation helped me re-direct to my breath, and I will share some below. However, I will strongly caveat to use these sparingly. I will always emphasize in my writing that you are your own guru, teacher, master, etc. There is but one guide in meditation, and it is your breath.
I call my breath my anchor when I meditate. Thoughts will always arise. You are presented with a choice – in meditation and outside of meditation – you can think your thought and chase it with more, or you can allow it to pass. An example: A thought “I need to do the laundry” can be acknowledged and dismissed and you return to what you are doing. Alternatively, “I need to do the laundry, I forgot to get detergent at the store, I can’t believe I did that again, I forgot onions too, the pot pie you made last night sucked, you still didn’t do the dishes….”
Meditation is not sitting in lotus posture with your hands in mudra alone. I am meditating as I type these words, and if you are reading these words, you are meditating as well. It is when you are engrossed in your thoughts – talking to yourself – that you are not meditating. When The Buddha tells us to Expect Nothing, he is telling us to stop placing these standards and ideals of the mind on ourselves. Your very inhalation and exhalation are all you need in this moment. How many disappointments have you created in your life by the very nature of your thoughts? You expected it to be one way, and it went another? I expected meditation to do xyz, and reality taught me. Meditation is nothing. It’s the only -ing in meditation.
Can I shut up so I can hear?
As I said, when I began meditating, I found so much noise. If I were to describe my mind like water, it was wave after wave of thoughts, and in trying to think away my thoughts, I created more. To type it out, hopefully, displays the irrationality of it. Prior to meditating, I never noticed how noisy my mind was because I never noticed how noisy the world was. Your mind is a reflection of your environment. You look outside from the inside, naturally what is inside is what is outside.
People are constantly talking, music is constantly playing, TV, etc. There is so much commotion in our world. Of course, it is difficult to find stillness and quiet. This is where the breath is your only anchor, much like the waves of that same ocean. Your thoughts will rise and fall like waves, rocked by your breath. As you breathe, your thoughts will naturally come to a quieter state. You cannot think them quieter, or you create new waves. The only way to create fewer waves of water is to sit and wait.
The point in being told to quiet your mind is to show you the futility of it. Most get frustrated and give up because they are doing something or they are trying to be like Buddha. In either, they’re not being themselves. They are being bound in expectation as opposed to nothing.
Meditation is a connection to yourself, your true self, free of the masks you wear in society. You cannot force a connection, nor can you think a connection. The connection comes from communication.
How do you talk to yourself?
Thinking is talking to yourself. I began to best understand this as I understood Rumination. Rumination is when you think or say the same thing over and over. I am ___, I can’t believe I ____, I should be____. These are all statements. This is not a conversation, nor is it communication. Contemplation, on the other hand, is when you ask questions. If you go through life ruminating – making statements, no one can answer the questions you are not asking. If you are living life adhering to expectations, your tunnel vision blocks you from seeking answers to questions you did not know you asked. Contemplation is a form of meditation. As you talk to yourself less, you allow more quiet, which allows space for communication and connection.
In the business (busy-ness?) of life, quiet is tough to find. I found myself afraid of it. I used the guided meditations, music, etc. at first in an attempt to drown out the noise of my mind. Yet, there is a problem too. If I’m trying to connect with myself, I can’t drown myself out. I must connect with all – good, bad, and in between. I realized, too, I use music, talking, etc. to drown out my thoughts, and make it harder for people to connect with me. It’s a form of self-preservation. If I am always talking, I don’t have to listen. I don’t have to hear what people think of me because the truth is I project an air of confidence to hide my terror. My terror that everyone knows I am as crazy as I think I am.
I began meditating because I wanted to learn how to quiet my mind. I was so tired of how noisy my brain was. I knew I thought about everything too much. I knew I was thinking myself out of reality. Before I studied Buddhism, Jung, or anyone, I knew something was wrong with me because I could not be happy. I didn’t know what happiness was. I knew deeply that happiness was nothing I could possess, nothing I could put an ‘s, nothing I could put into words, but I knew it was something that I was not choosing for myself. I knew it started in my mind, but what I didn’t know was that my mind and the world are very much the same, when you don’t think about it.
Once I stopped talking to myself so much, I found silence. In the silence, I found myself.
Are you ruminating or contemplating?
This is a topic I will be developing much further, so stay tuned.
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