If I am not careful my mind runs away from me.
I might, for example, feel like I need to tell somebody something that they won’t want to hear. Then, I begin to focus on times that confrontation has gone poorly in the past and people have been hurt. And I might have this label in my brain, that I am barely aware. I label myself a critic. Or I might label the other person, lumping them in with all the other people who do this thing. Or this whole thing might give a feeling I don’t like very much, and now my mind is on the last time I felt this way. This group of connections carries with it their own set of negative connotations, emotions, and assumptions. And so it grows, like a wildfire or a nuclear chain reaction.
After a couple desperate and difficult years, I ended up with a pretty big problem. I was often scared and miserable. There were times I would be in the middle of everyday sorts of things– doing the laundry, for example– and my brain would just get so full with this avalanche of judgement, association, and assumptions.
I ended up with a psychiatrist, a therapist, and medications. They got me through some tough times. I suspect I would have needed them less if I’d had some options I could have tried on my own. I wish I could travel back in time and tell the person I was about the things I would be doing some years from that difficult time.
Sitting quietly brings me face to face with the reality that I am living. That first step isn’t easy. But the thing is, I was always kidding myself. I never was fully in denial about my reality. I was in just enough denial to prevent myself from solving these issues.
The act of sitting in silence is one that calls me to recognize that my current moment is totally unique. There isn’t any reason to think the past is going to repeat itself. There isn’t any reason to assume the future outcome is determined.
Meditation time is like running drills to get better at sports. Specific skills are identified and practiced in isolation, but the hope is that these abilities generalize outward. When I meditate I approach the world in ways that hopefully I can bring out of those quiet times and into my everyday life.
This anxiety-busting aspect of meditation is closely related to a thing called non-dualistic thinking. But non dualistic thinking deserves it’s own post, so we will explore this next time.
I think you ought to begin where you are.
Spend some time sitting, and breathing. Perhaps you would like to set a timer for fifteen minutes. Try and sit up straight and sit still.
Breathe slowly. In through the nose and out from the mouth.
Be in this moment. This is the first time you have experienced this moment, ever. And you will never live in this moment again.
Drink in the uniqueness of each moment as you sit. When thoughts or feelings arise that might pull you into a connection with the past, dismiss it. When fears about the futute arise, dismiss them. Let them go.
Let them go by continuing to do what you are doing: breathe in, and breathe out, and sit in this single moment. Be present to this present moment.
My experience has been that each time I do this, I carry just a little bit of it with me, out of the meditation. I get a little better at facing the world one moment at a time. My hope is that you experience this, too.