Do you long for a quiet mind? Do you want to calm the chaos in your head? If you’re at all like me, it can be hard to turn down the volume.
No doubt, we live complex lives. I wonder if our minds were designed to manage this kind of complexity. I bet our rapid fire lifestyles would be inconceivable to our great grandparents.
So it’s no wonder that meditation and mindfulness are becoming a go-to source for balance and quietude. With good reason, many of us retreat to the yoga mat and the meditation cushion to sooth our minds and pacify our jangled nerves.
A Popular Misconception
There’s a big myth about meditation, however, and it can cause a lot of confusion. I think it’s the most popular misconception about this ancient practice. What is it? It’s the idea that you can quiet your mind and even stop your thoughts through meditation.
The honest answer is no, you can’t. And if you are new to meditation, it’s important to manage your expectations so you don’t lose heart. Yes, meditation can help you become calmer, more grounded, and it can help you cultivate more inner peace. But it can’t really quiet your mind. That’s actually a big myth.
If your mind has ever gone still and quiet like a high mountain lake, you know how amazing that feels. It’s heavenly. Maybe you’ve experienced that at the end of a really good yoga workout.
But the idea that you can control the flow of thoughts in your mind is a little like thinking you can stop Niagara Falls. It ain’t gonna happen. And this idea that meditation can help you stop your thoughts and quiet your mind is what leads a lot of people to give up.
The Truth about Meditation
Here’s what meditation can do. It can help you learn how to be still. It can teach you how to be a calm and centered observer of your own manic mind. The more adept you become, the more that meditation will open you to new parts of your self that are always free from the chaos of life.
This is very different than trying to quiet your mind or stop your thoughts. If fact, it’s the opposite.
Meditation is all about accepting your mind exactly as it is. It’s a form of radical self-acceptance. The truth is, a lot of our stress comes from the friction we experience in our own minds, in response to thoughts, feelings, and experiences that we don’t like.
The kind of self-acceptance I’m talking about is not easy, and it takes practice, but it sure is rewarding when you get the hang of it. The more still you can be as you let your mind do its own thing, the calmer and more centered you’ll become.
Letting the Mind Be
Notice, I didn’t say that your mind becomes quiet. To be honest, your mind can be a chamber of chaos while you sit still like a beautiful lotus blossom on a still blue pond. Can you imagine that?
That’s often what real meditation is all about. You simply ignore your crazy mind. You get comfortable with letting that craziness be there and you stop trying to change it or resist it. And then you find, more often than not, it passes.
So if you are willing to sit still, relax, and let your mind be, you’re going to master the art of meditation. Yes, it takes a lot of practice, but you’ll develop genuine self-knowledge. And more importantly, you’ll find that meditation can give you relief from your crazy mind, but probably not in the way you think.
That means that your mind won’t stop, but you will.