This article has been featured on Thrive Global.
I’ve tried lots of different styles of meditation in the past year. I stuck with none of them longer than 2 months. While I love the idea of emptying my head of thoughts and worries, and I’d love to relax, it was just not doing it for me.
Emptying your mind?
I heard over and over again that the purpose of meditation is to empty your mind. Not to go on worrying about dinner, going through the 150 things on your to-do list, or to get anxious about not being able to go on a holiday next year. I wanted that! I wanted to get into a state of ease. But the more I was focusing on not thinking, the more I wanted to empty my head, the more thoughts would plague me. It was not working. Or rather, I was failing to make it work for me.
Thinking about the elephant
If I told you not to think about an elephant, would you succeed? Not a chance. I realised that I was going about it all wrong. Meditation is not about sitting and having a perfectly empty mind. It’s about getting out of your head.
Paying attention to the present moment
So I started to shift my focus out of my head. I started to focus on sounds, smells, the parts of my body that were touching the floor. Basically, I started to pay attention to what was happening at that very moment. And when I started doing that, my mind became quiet. It was impossible to go on worrying or thinking, while I was anchored in the present moment.
Something easy to focus on
But sitting down in a quiet room made it difficult for me to find something intense to focus on. My mind was still giving me a hard time. So I started to use this intense focus in situations, when there was some action going on. When my kids were playing together, I would just sit and drink it all in. I would listen to the change of their voices, the intonations of their disagreement, request or collaboration. I would look at the light seeping through the curtains, looking at the colours of toys, skin, hair. And at the same time, feeling that intense satisfaction in my stomach.
Other forms of “meditation”
I realised that there are plenty of activities that offer that intense focus, that meditative state of mind. Sports, dancing, cooking, climbing a tree, skydiving. When I’m noticing things that are happening, when my attention is on what I’m doing in that very moment, something shifts. I feel good. I feel peaceful and satisfied.
Redefining the quiet place
After discovering the shift out of my head, I made another discovery. I didn’t actually need a quiet room to get into that meditative state. I had my quiet room with me. I discovered the activities that make it easy for me to empty my mind. Painting is one of the many.
Now I challenge myself to pay attention more and more. That doesn’t mean that I’m never worried or that I’m never thinking about the past or the future. Because I do. But now I have a tool to take a break from it.
Do you have a technique for it too? Share it with me, I’d love to hear it.