debunking a myth: thinking during meditation is bad08 Feb 2017
the other day, i posted something on facebook that started out saying “i was meditating and had this thought…” a friend responded and told me that i was doing it wrong if i was thinking.
now, the introduction of meditation into western culture has been fraught with all sorts of cultural problems. but this one misunderstanding seems like a literal lack of knowledge. it is a myth that thinking and meditation are mutually exclusive. here’s a chunk of text from an article called 7 myths of meditation:
“This may be the number one myth about meditation and is the cause of many people giving up in frustration. Meditation isn’t about stopping our thoughts or trying to empty our mind – both of these approaches only create stress and more noisy internal chatter. We can’t stop or control our thoughts, but we can decide how much attention to give them.”
i think learning about this myth was the single most important thing that allowed me to keep building my meditation practice. once i learned that “thinking” wasn’t the enemy, i realized two things. first, i could meditate anywhere, anytime. second, i wasn’t doing it “wrong” if i noticed myself thinking… in fact, noticing myself thinking was the thing i was supposed to be doing. building the awareness of my thinking was, in fact, the whole point. once i flipped my understanding from thinking i was doing it wrong to realizing that i was doing it right, i wanted to do it a whole lot more.
anyway, that’s all i have to say about that. feel free to check out the full text of this myth being debunked below or just read the whole article; it’s pretty good (though the ratio of while people to non-white people on the site makes me think the chopra center is more of a money generator than anything else… #bizarre).
full quote from article
Myth #2: You have to quiet your mind in order to have a successful meditation practice.
Truth: This may be the number one myth about meditation and is the cause of many people giving up in frustration. Meditation isn’t about stopping our thoughts or trying to empty our mind – both of these approaches only create stress and more noisy internal chatter. We can’t stop or control our thoughts, but we can decide how much attention to give them. Although we can’t impose quiet on our mind, through meditation we can find the quiet that already exists in the space between our thoughts. Sometimes referred to as “the gap,” this space between thoughts is pure consciousness, pure silence, and pure peace. When we meditate, we use an object of attention, such as our breath, an image, or a mantra, which allows our mind to relax into this silent stream of awareness. When thoughts arise, as they inevitably will, we don’t need to judge them or try to push them away. Instead, we gently return our attention to our object of attention.In every meditation, there are moments, even if only microseconds, when the mind dips into the gap and experiences the refreshment of pure awareness. As you meditate on a regular basis, you will spend more and more time in this state of expanded awareness and silence.
Be assured that even if it feels like you have been thinking throughout your entire meditation, you are still receiving the benefits of your practice. You haven’t failed or wasted your time. When Chopra Center co-founder Dr. David Simon taught meditation, he would often tell students, “The thought I’m having thoughts may be the most important thought you have ever thought, because before you had that thought, you may not have even known you were having thoughts. You probably thought you were your thoughts.” Simply noticing that you are having thoughts is a breakthrough because it begins to shift your internal reference point from ego mind to witnessing awareness. As you become less identified with your thoughts and stories, you experience greater peace and open to new possibilities.
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