Deciding to get on the meditation bandwagon? Or rather feeling FOMO for not being on one already? No matter the situation, “Just Meditate”– is the ONE suggestion every successful person seems to give us. Be it heartbreak, productivity, happiness, confidence, addiction… anything.
Most of us have dabbled with it briefly, casually, intermittently, and most often doubtfully. I have done so for the past seven years. I must admit, I read a lot more about meditation than practice it sincerely. But this time, I decided to do it, dedicatedly. And I did. For an hour every day for two months straight.
You know the subtle changes most people talk about? They are not so subtle anymore. Neither to me nor to the people around me. While I didn’t get a brain scan to show my before and after results, I have experienced significant changes that I want to share with you.
Meeting My Monkey Mind
The second I close my eyes, limiting the stimulus of the external world, the flood gates to my internal world open up. Oh boy- is it a mad mess in here or what? The chatter begins, and quite frankly it keeps going on, and on, and on. The internal chaos is so loud, it is very unsettling. Scientists have discovered this chaos to be the activity of the default mode network (DMN), the brain network that is responsible for mind-wandering and chattering, a.k.a the “monkey mind”. It is especially active when we are not focused on anything, in particular, causing quite the trouble to our being.
Since meditation is a tool to quieten this monkey mind, expect RESISTANCE. It is like the first time you do a two minute plank and your body screams to stop! The mind’s scream is inevitable- it wants to go back to its comfort zone, the chatter.
I decidedly sat through those minutes of discomfort to feel my mind slowly give in. Almost like the chaos of a storm in a lake, where all the mud rises up. But you allow it to be still for a while, and the mud eventually settles down. It doesn’t go away, but it isn’t as meddlesome any more. An interesting study carried out at Yale University found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the DMN (monkey mind) part of the brain.
As I committed to this every day, I find that I always meet (or rather become aware of) my monkey mind, but as I keep going, it is active for a shorter and shorter time in my meditation. I seem to be creating some distance with it.
Observing My Monkey Mind
The chatter begins, and quite frankly it is absolutely amusing how it jumps from one topic to another, from happy to sad, from past to future in no time. One second I am dreading about how I must do those atrocious lower ab workouts today (triggers sad emotion), and just another second it takes me to that recipe of the cake I’ve been eager to bake (triggers happy emotion).
Wow, so volatile. And even more wow is that we are prey to this crazy volatility that absolutely dictates our being. A simple rule of thumb for my meditation is to be a “doorkeeper” to all my thoughts. Not to engage in them, but to just observe them. Almost as if I am watching them on a TV screen. I am seeing the drama unfold, but not an active part of it. This takes some effort, sometimes I find myself seamlessly involved in the drama, and I have to consciously come back to being the observer. But I kept doing this, each day, every day. Taking the role of an observer comes more naturally now.
Remember the feeling when every small thing could take us on an emotional ride? A difficult conversation, a piece of unhappy news, or an unfavorable event sends us into a downward spiral? That isn’t the case anymore. The practice allowed me to create a little distance from my thoughts, and as a consequence created a little distance from its emotional triggers too. I am no longer ON the roller coaster but observing my mind’s roller coaster from a stable ground below. Not all the time of course, but most times. I am beginning to trust that I have the ability to distance myself from the effervescent illusions of my own mind. A small realization dawns that, after all —
The goal of meditation is not to control your thoughts, it is to stop letting the thoughts control you — Buddhist saying
Feeling Beyond My Monkey Mind
As my distance with the monkey mind increased and the noise of the chatter considerably reduced, a feeling emerged. Brief moments of clarity — on some important life event, or an answer I’ve been looking for, or just an overwhelming sense of the fact that everything is okay. It just is. Great meditators and scientists call this intuition.
While I can’t say for sure that my sense of intuition has increased, I can say this — this clarity isn’t coming from an overactive or analytical mind that is carefully calculating the pros and cons of the situation in hand. This clarity isn’t coming from a place of providing some consolation to my worries or fears or to inflate my false sense of ego. It is just a blatant knowing without hesitation, without unambiguity that I can trust to lead me in the right direction.
I feel like I am going in the right direction — in life. This direction is not in accords with the people, or the society around me, just my own internal GPS. For the first time, I have surrendered to the knowledge that I am actually not the driver of the car in the so-called journey of life, but only a passenger that is experiencing life’s unfolding. I am actually feeling this sense of surrender which has brought me a great deal of peace, calm, and acceptance, both of myself, my situations, and of the people around me. This quote from Rumi makes so much experiential sense to me now:
The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear — Rumi
Committing to meditating has been the single most valuable gift I have given to myself. I hope you can give it to yourself too!
Previously published on “Change Becomes You”, a Medium publication.
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