A large portion of the thoughts and feelings you have are not yours, rather you pick them up from others. This may seem entirely shocking and untrue, but you can do an experiment to fact check this for yourself. Go for a hike alone on an uncrowded trail and take note of the number of thoughts you have. After you have been hiking for an hour or so, you’ll notice your mind is still and that you don’t have many thoughts. Next go to a mall or someplace crowded and walk around for a while and observe how many thoughts are running through your mind. In a crowded place you’ll notice your mind becomes very loud and full of thoughts.
It’s helpful to be aware of this phenomenon because if you’re around an angry person, you’ll notice that you’ll begin to have angry thoughts. If you’re around someone who is worried about money, you’ll be worried about money. If you spend a lot of time with someone who is depressed, you’ll feel tired or hopeless when you’re around them. When you realize that a lot of the things that you think and feel aren’t coming from you, you can be an “educated consumer” and not spend as much time with people or in places where you pick up crappy thoughts and feelings. You can also learn to not act on the emotions that you pick up externally that aren’t yours.
When you meditate, you go into the light that is inside of you. That light is inside of everyone and everything, and it cannot be owned by any culture, country, religion, lineage or gender. Anyone can slow their mind down and experience that light. It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or skinny, young or old, mediocre or extraordinary, a gal or a guy—anyone can meditate!
Please note I’m not receiving payment for any of these recommendations; these are simply things I like and use.
A Great Cushion Set. I like the ones from DharmaCrafts, and particularly like the zafus filled with buckwheat hulls. If you sit in half-lotus or cross-legged, the cushions with buckwheat hulls are great because they conform to your shape and prevent your legs from falling asleep. They also have a quiz to help you find which kind of cushion or bench is right for you. I love how many fabrics and patterns are available these days.
An iPod or other music player. You may say what the heck, why not just use my phone?! The deal is our phones have so much crap energy with apps, news, emails, texts…yuck! I don’t want any of that noise near my meditation, so I have a specific music player I use just for meditating. A fun extra with the iPod is you can have the back engraved with your favorite mantra, like om mani padme hum, which means the jewel in the lotus, and is a poetic way of saying that enlightenment is inside you, and indeed, inside everyone and everything!
A Great Pair of Headphones (or Earbuds) that you use just for meditation. I personally prefer headphones over earbuds. The sound quality of headphones is superior to earbuds, plus I don’t like having anything in my ears while I meditate. It’s similar to how jewelry you wear throughout the day becomes almost unbearable to have on while you’re meditating. That said, this is definitely an instance of personal preference (see the A-frame story)! Indeed, one of my best friends can’t believe I want those heavy old things on my head while I meditate. You can find extensive recommendations on Wirecutter for all kinds of great headphones and earbuds.
A Bell. My dear friend Ben says that if he walks into another room and forgets what he was about to do, he just walks back to the place where he was thinking the thought and picks it back up. Our thoughts leave impressions, so walking back into his old thought bubble, he picks the thread back up. But what if you don’t want all your old thoughts and dreams around? A bell is a great (and fascinating) way to clear them out of your space and mind. When you first ring a bell in a space, it will warble, but as you continue to clear the space, the ring becomes clearer and clearer until it rings precisely with no warble. At that point, you’ll find your room sparkles, and your mind is emptier and brighter. A good bell won’t make you enlightened, but it will make your life much easier! Check out Karen Kingston to learn more on this topic.
In the morning, meditate shortly after you wake up. It’s easier to meditate when you feel awake and alert, so take a shower (or at least wash your hands and face) and have a cup of coffee, tea or juice if you need that. A few bites of food are fine, but avoid eating a meal because a full stomach makes meditating more difficult. You will also have an easier time quieting your mind if you meditate before you engage your mind in the things that start it spinning, such as email, TV, Internet, phone calls or other conversations.
In the evening, you can meditate at sunset, when you get home, or before you go to bed. The sunset meditation is especially nice, when you can make it. Again, shower or wash your hands and face before you sit down.
Recently I was on vacation, and with the exception of a few email checks, I also took a vacation from the Internet. Though I have done this many times before, I was still amazed at the blissfulness of the mind without the energetic push and pull of the Internet. The mind is so much more quiet and unconcerned with the goings-on of the world when released from the tyranny of the Internet :–). I highly recommend you give yourself a vacation from the Internet the next time you go on vacation.
A concern I hear frequently from folks who’ve recently started meditating is that they feel like they are thinking even more while they’re meditating than they did when they first started.
What’s really going on is that when you begin meditating and practicing mindfulness, you become aware of the quantity and quality of thoughts that flow through your mind. You’re not really thinking more, you’re justmore aware nowof what is flowing through your mind.
Be patient with yourself. The number of thoughts that go through your mind will slow down the longer you practice meditation. You may always have thoughts flowing through your mind at the beginning of your meditation, but what changes is that they begin to slow down more quickly the longer you practice.
Your mind is an amazing and essential tool, but it is not who you truly are. All the thoughts and ideas that run through our minds feel very close, like “us,” so it can certainly feel like our minds define who we are—but if you put your mind on “Pause” for a moment and stop your thoughts, you will find that there is still a presence there. You find that you are still there even when your mind is not thinking.
What is that presence that is still there when the mind is gone? I can tell you that it is your true self, the light and consciousness that make up everything and everyone. But it’s not very transformative to read that. What’s powerful is to experience that eternality for yourself! What’s transformative is to start meditating and slowing down the mind so you can find out for yourself that who you truly are is beyond the mind and the body, is eternal and is good.
Everyone at their core is made of this light. Both the best person and the worst person have this light at their core. What this means for you is that this light is inside you and available to you all the time, but you have to slow down your mind to be able to see it. So, yes again, meditate!
It’s important to not judge your meditation. The only bad meditation is the one you don’t do! The truth is even when you have meditations that don’t feel as “good” or “powerful” as others, the light is still transforming you. It’s still working, even if it doesn’t feel like a good meditation to you.
“One of the great secrets of life that Buddhist monks have learned from their study of meditation is how to eliminate anything extraneous from their minds. If something doesn’t contribute to their happiness and well-being, or to the happiness and well-being of others, they are able to remove it from their thoughts and keep their minds focused on what does matter.”