Perhaps your mind is like my mind?
My ever-distracted and noisy mind. Like an ultra-hyper new puppy. Like a sleep-deprived kid on a sugar high the day after Halloween bouncing off the walls.
And I’m supposed to be able to control that?
No wonder I sucked at meditation.
Maybe what sucked was my understanding of meditation.
I’d gotten quite consistent with my meditation practice. Showing up daily is kind of important if we hope to get better at doing just about anything. I’d set my timer, sit on my meditation bench, close my eyes, focus on my breath, and waited in silence for my own version of enlightenment to overtake me and bring me peace.
Instead my peace was consistently interrupted as those random thoughts relentlessly popped into my mind. “Did I pay the insurance?” “Why does my knee hurt?” “Why do these thoughts keep showing up?” As one would fade away another showed up close behind. Like a parade, a seemingly never-ending parade of thoughts doing all they could do to prevent peace from finding me.
I was wrong about meditation. I thought it was supposed to help me control my mind. I thought it was about creating the mental and emotional toughness to suppress and silence the noise in my head.
Sitting on my meditation bench each morning, I now fully expect my mind to be anything but quiet, especially initially.
But the important lesson is in the noise itself.
As I observe the active patterns of my thoughts, I am reminded of their impermanence. No matter how loudly they may scream, no matter how intense, at some point they simply fade away. As Pema Chodron would say, thoughts are like clouds passing through.
And we are the blue sky.
The impermanence of thought greatly disempowers their impact. When you know the storm is temporary, it is easier to deal with the storm. Thoughts, like the weather, are simply passing through.
We just need to let them.
During the course of my day, weakening thoughts can arise and at times take me into darker places. When things don’t work out as planned, when disappointment leads to self loathing, those thoughts feel anything but impermanent. My daily meditation practice reminds me that thoughts, no matter how valid they may feel at the time, are only temporary. That understanding weakens the hold the dark thoughts have on me, because I know those thoughts are only passing through.
Have you ever noticed the patterns of your thoughts? Ever just step back and notice their life cycle, how they arise, linger for a bit, and slowly fade away?
Meditation has taught me we won’t ever be able to control our thoughts, but we do have the ability to limit how our thoughts control us.
Just something to think about.