Meditation is something I had heard about often. But, I never gave two hoots about it. It just didn’t seem interesting. Although anxiety and stress have got the better of me on numerous occasions!

This year, I began reading more about meditation. I learned that it could be a good habit to have while achieving my life goals. Also, my cousin, who had been practising meditation consistently for a year or so, nudged me to try it. “I am in a much better space now, thanks to meditation,” he said, looking at me in a meditative way. It seemed true. He had an air of calm.

So, I finally decided to give the practice of meditation a try.

Getting Started

I installed apps for guided meditation on my phone. I decided to delve into them and explore. It should be simple, right?

Well, it wasn’t! I found the practice of meditation to be incredibly difficult.

“Concentrate on your breathing as it is,” the guiding voice said.

That seemed fine, but I felt like I was changing my breathing pace every time I tried to focus on it.

“Observe the sounds outside without thinking about them,” he said.

How the hell do you do that? How do you hear something and not think about it? I mean, making sense of a sound involves thought. And why was I thinking about all this while I was supposed to be observing the sound?

“It’s okay if your mind wanders. Just bring the attention back whenever that happens,” he said.

Ah, that’s a relief. But, the problem was that I was getting distracted by thoughts 80 to 90 % of the time. In one session, I was so lost in thought that I didn’t even realize when the session was over. I was still sitting there, lost in thought, like an idiot.

And this is what it felt like during the first three months (also, I wasn’t that consistent in practice during this time). My main struggle was suppressing my thoughts as they arrived and focusing on the blank space in my consciousness, as they called it. I didn’t seem to make any progress or have any benefits.

A Breakthrough

Then, last month, I had a breakthrough!

During one of the guided sessions, I discovered that it was not about suppressing my thoughts, but about separating them as they arrived. I had heard this before, but this was the first time I actually processed the concept. And this was such an ‘Aha’ moment for me as this made all the difference.

Now, what is the difference between suppressing thought and separating it?

Suppressing your thoughts is like fighting them and trying to make them go away. That’s not healthy.

On the other hand, separating your thoughts is more about taking them out of your mind and observing them.

The way I visualize this process is like seeing the thought, that just arrived in my mind, as a cloudy floating entity. Now, I take this entity out of my mind and observe it hanging in space just outside my consciousness. I relate this process to Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter taking out one of his memories and putting it in the ‘Pensieve’ to observe it. It provides a third-party perspective to the memory (or the thought in this case).

Image source: Mockingbird.com

It is a creative and effective way to separate my thoughts from my mind and observe them. The process looks similar to journaling.

The Benefits

Now, you might wonder what the practical benefits of doing this are. Here is an overview:

  • By quickly separating a thought I’m able to clear my mind and improve focus. I’ll allow the thought to just float outside, and deal with it later. Or, it may have already vanished!
  • By observing a thought without judgement, I can remain calmer. I can see that my thought is a different entity from my mind’s consciousness and that I always have a choice in deciding how to act on it. It helps in controlling impulsive behaviour led by negative emotions or bad habits.
  • By observing multiple thoughts simultaneously, I can select the ones to let go of and the ones to explore further. Remember, not all thoughts are counterproductive. Sometimes a wandering mind is necessary for creativity and exploration. So, as I said earlier, it is never about suppressing your thoughts. It is about observing them.

Now, I am not claiming that I can do this perfectly, every time. Not at all. There are still situations in which I have setbacks. But, I do see small victories.

And, this is progress.

In conclusion, I have begun to understand the benefits of meditation. And this is just the beginning. There are numerous other benefits that people report. I haven’t got there yet, but I’m hopeful. Just like exercise does, they say that meditation is known to improve the brain with time.

Hence, meditation is now a part of my new morning routine. And, that’s where you can start too if you’re a beginner; by making it a habit. That is the first step towards progress.