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  • Writer's pictureHelen

Why I don't meditate (I do)

Why I don’t meditate.

I do actually. I just don’t call it meditation because I have an irrational dislike for the word, and think it’s been very misunderstood as a practice of ‘not thinking’. I prefer to call it brain training, because to me that’s what it is. We’re not trying to not think, we’re trying to train the mind to focus.

To me, meditation is to the mind what the gym is to the body. We all need to move our body to counteract the negative impact of our physically under stimulated lives (too much sitting and same-same movements). Similarly, we need to practice focusing the mind to counteract the negative impact of this mentally and emotionally overstimulating world. Is going to the gym and lifting weights hard? Yes. Is training the brain hard? Yes. We should probably do them anyway.

Overstimulation, stress, bereavement, anxiety, trauma etc can all lead to a mind that feels unable to focus, and unable to rest. Our head may feel cluttered, thoughts may race along and be hard to steer, it may feel hard to focus on anything for any length of time. This is not a very content place for the mind to live. Research shows that a wandering mind is a less happy mind. If we train it to focus, mostly we will feel better.

In it's simplest form meditation is this: choose an anchor for the mind - often breath, mantra, or body sensation. The anchor needs to be something that is happening now to stop the mind drifting to ‘then’ and ‘when’. Breath and mantra are common choices because they come and go moment to moment.

Sit down, be quiet, set a timer, and try and focus on your anchor. When you notice your mind has drifted from the anchor, bring it back. This is one rep. When you notice the mind has gone again, bring it back. This is another rep.

In the beginning you may have to rep your mind what feels like every second. You may also find yourself fantasising about a holiday for 20 mins before you’ve even noticed that the mind has gone. This is normal. Tell yourself it’s normal and just keep repping until the timer goes off. Try hard not to get frustrated and irritated with a mind that just-won’t-bloody-focus, any more than you would get annoyed with a body that can’t deadlift it's own weight on its first gym jaunt. Be gentle with your poor, tired, and overstimulated mind; it doesn’t need you shouting at it.

As time goes on, with training, the brain learns to focus more. There is less repping, and more moments of quiet where the mind manages to stay fixed on the anchor. There’s less mental fight, and more peace. Thoughts become untangled, we can see things a little bit more clearly, there is a mental rest from all the chatter. This is our brain regions coming back into coordination. The more we practice the better the coordination, and the deeper and longer the moments of calm.

The impact slowly spreads into every day life. We become less reactive, more insightful, clearer headed, less overwhelmed, more at ease.

Many people do not go to the gym because it’s fun, they go because it’s good for them and because they like the results.

Meditation is exactly the same.

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