09 Feb Meditation Has Changed My Life and the Very Sense of Who I Am
To imagine that one can survive horrible hospital stays, car accidents, multiple deaths of a loved ones, traumatic life situations and, yes, even insomnia by simply practicing meditation is a radical thought.
We know that meditation has been around for thousands of years and practiced by people from all walks of life and on all parts of the globe , but there is one common myth about meditation, however, that often leads to a sense of failure and why people give up on the practice.
This is the Myth: That meditation is supposed to work to calm and quiet the mind.
I know this to be false. Do not get me wrong, a feeling of calm and a quiet in one’s mind is sometimes a result of meditation, and a lovely one at that, but the purpose of meditation is not to calm the mind or the self. You have not failed if your mind does not become like a still pool reflecting the moons image, as a result of this practice. It is the nature of the mind to keep generating thoughts, endlessly, whether meditating or not. Some 70-80 thousand of them a day. Some people who have meditated for decades continue to house a wild animal, (affectionately known as monkey mind) inside their heads. The purpose of meditation is not to change the nature of the wild animal/monkey, not to turn it into a docile rabbit. Rather, the purpose is simply to observe the monkey — to SEE what is happening within your own mind and your own self. That’s it! Nothing fancy.
Noticing the mind jumping about — doing its monkey thing — is meditating. If the mind quiets, as a result of being observed, (which it often does) that’s wonderful, but whether it does or not is of no consequence. What changes as a result of meditation is not necessarily the speed and frequency of the thoughts that appear, but rather our relationship with those thoughts.
Through the practice of meditation, we become less identified with the story lines that runs through our head, less convinced that our thoughts hold some inherent truth or importance, and less committed to solving each problem/trauma/ experience about which our thoughts remind us. You could say that we lose a degree of interest in the monkey mind’s song (or screech). Sometimes the mind quiets as a result of our lack of interest — of our paying it less mind — and sometimes it just screeches louder. Again, neither outcome is a testament to the success or failure of meditation, just something else to notice.
So what is the big deal, then? Why all this talk about meditation when (possibly) nothing about the mind changes as a result of it. What is startling is that everything can change as a result of not trying to change anything. It’s counter-intuitive. Really. We do not set out with the purpose of changing who we are (or if we do, we simply notice that too), and yet who we are changes once we are simply allowed to be.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” — Carl Rogers.
What happens as a result of witnessing our own mind (without judgment or commentary) is that, over time, we realize that we are actually not that mind, nor the thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and all else that it spews out. We realize that the mind will happen on its own, generating content, with or without our participation. We realize that who we are, our very identity, is the one who is witnessing all that goes on. All that monkeying about. In meditation, we become the silent witness. The purpose of meditation is not to change our mind, but to awaken the self that is aware of it!
You are successfully meditating IF you meditate. If you take one moment to see what is occurring inside your own mind — without getting involved in its contents, without engaging in the dialogue, the story line, just looking, with curiosity — you are doing it right. For 45+ years I have been practicing to ‘be the witness’. To not buy into the stories. To just be with what is. To practice a radical act of love. And I am still ‘practicing’.
“It is indeed a radical act of love just to sit down and be quiet for a time with yourself.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn
MSW, RSW, CERTIFIED MEDITATION INSTRUCTOR
Patti started her own meditation practice in her teens and maintains a daily practice into her 60’s. She has spent countless hours, days and months in silent retreats and created a beginners Meditation class over 10 years ago. Patti then went on to expand her teachings to include Advanced courses, Book Study Groups and 1/2 Day Silent retreats. Never satisfied with the status quo, Patti then channelled her creative juices into the “Mindful Living” Line which includes Mindful Cushions (zafus), Mindful Mats (zabutons), Yoga Eye Pillows, Scented Sachets and all things Mindful. Patti is also local therapist who uses Mindfulness and Meditation in her Private Practice and finds it especially effective for clients with depression and anxiety. Patti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by texting or calling 519-503-0400