Someone trying really hard to 'quiet' their mind. SO. MUCH. EFFORT!
You've been told that you "really should meditate," or you have friends who swear by it, but you just can't seem to do it. Seriously?!? you think ... I have to get rid of my thoughts?!? Who even thought of this?!? You actually start thinking more when you sit down to meditate and feel worse than ever.
This was me.
I even took a graduate course in university on meditation (yep! they exist!) and our major task for the semester was to develop a meditation practice.
I didn't do it.
I wrote my final paper detailing exactly what I thought my struggle was. My professor was not impressed. (Actually, he turned out to be ... ahem ... my PhD dissertation supervisor -- I think he'd forgotten by then, thank God.) He told me that no one had ever struggled with the assignment before. I was the first.
Really? No one else has struggled to meditate?
I can't remember if I believed this at the time, although my willingness to believe in my failure was highly developed, so probably. But at some point, I realized that I was just the first who came clean about it.
I mean, c'mon, we've all been students so we know what it's like. You know what the professor is likely looking for and you want an A so we just make stuff up. Or am I the only one who has done this? Ha ;)
[Side note: I became a professor and I liked getting really honest about this kind of a thing with my students as a way to get them to question how we can get learning to be about learning again instead of checking boxes and people-pleasing!]
Well, I didn't give up on meditation. I actually did realize what my problem was. It was that I didn't understand exactly what I should be doing. And if I did achieve something, would I recognize it?
I felt like the instructions were, "Go meditate." That's it. Well, I'm a big picture person so this wasn't enough for me. I'm also a born inquirer, a compulsive researcher, so I wanted to understand what the mind is, and am I the mind ... and ... and ... Until I got this nailed down, I COULD NOT meditate.
I came upon Byron Katie and her method of self-inquiry that she calls "The Work" in 2009 when my sister told me about her book Loving What Is. I immediately felt compelled to go to her Toronto workshop (the only time she's done one in Canada! talk about When the student is ready, the teacher will appear...!)
Sitting in that theatre watching and listening to Katie, what I knew immediately were three things:
1. I'd never seen anything like this before and
2. This was the how to J. Krishnamurti's what
... he who had already profoundly changed my life. (More on him in upcoming blogs ... he's who I focused my PhD work on and I highly recommend his work to you!) and
3. This was everything I had been looking for
Here, finally, was a way to quiet the mind, an experiential definition of meditation. And it was so simple that anyone could do it. I was floored. I still am, in a way, as this thing has been an absolute game-changer in my life.
So let me share what I finally grasped:
In its most basic description, meditation is observation.
Lest you think this is too basic, too simple, observation is INTELLIGENCE/WISDOM ITSELF ... the highest form of consciousness, not to mention a defiant, subversive act in this left-brain, logic-obsessed society of ours!
Let me explain.
When I'm teaching my university students in my education for mental health courses, I ask them, "Do you wake up in the morning and say, 'Okay, I think I'll think now.' Is there a 'thinking switch' you switch on?" Obviously the answer is no, but they get it.
Lightbulbs go off.
Often, we can miss the really obvious: If we don't decide to think, then neither can we shut it off. As Katie says, "We're being thought." !!! Just like we're being breathed.
So, what am I getting at here? We can't stop thought. It's "a happening." But what we can do, is observe it. <set off the fireworks>
Why would we do this? Because when we meet a thought and watch its origins and then keep watching it all the way to the end, it lets go of us. So, we can't quit thinking, but thinking can quit us. Cool, no? <insert mind-blown emoji> Cool?! It's downright extraordinary! It's everything!
In this simple (yet not so easy, at least at first, a bit like riding a bike) act of observation, you begin to be the one who uses thought as a tool instead of it using you.
Because that's how most of us on the planet are living ... "lost in thought," as Eckhart Tolle says. It's the human condition. Until it's not. (Phew)
So if you've heard the phrase "shift in consciousness" and have wondered what the heck that is all about, this might be the simplest way to understand it. I love how Eckhart describes it: removing some of your consciousness from thinking. Where does it go once you remove it? Well, you become that consciousness -- the observer -- instead of a self-concept.
And what a blessed experience THAT is.
Sum-up: "The Work" -- the self-inquiry -- is meditation. It's sitting in contemplation and observing how your whole world is put together: what you believe, why you believe it, if it's in actual fact true for you. And then (oh bliss of bliss!) who you would be without the stressful stories you've been believing about yourself and the world.
Welcome to a whole new state of consciousness. Just click below if you want to try it for yourself and use code LIGHT30 for $30 off your first session. I would love to introduce you to this profound process.