Picture the scene: you’ve managed to get a bit of piece and quiet so sit down with the intention of trying to meditate. You set the timer on your iPhone for 15 minutes and close your eyes, determined to clear your mind and experience "the power of meditation" that everyone's raving about with all its magical powers and benefits.
What feels like eternity passes and you wonder if your phone has died, so you peak one eye open and check: “Still 11 minutes 37 seconds to go?! I’m so rubbish at this!”
You close your eyes again. “I WILL keep my mind clear until the end. Focus on breathing. In…out. In…out. In…god I can’t believe he said that to me today. Why didn’t I stand my ground?! I’m such a pushover sometimes... DAMN IT! I’ve drifted AGAIN… I must learn to control thoughts…jeez, why do I suck at this?!”
If you're anything like me, you're probably wondering why you are the only one who can’t seem to get the hang of this meditation thing. You seem to suck at not being able to keep your mind clear and free of thoughts, even if it's only for 10 minutes. All these super-zen people floating around talking about how “amazing” their meditation is…blah blah blah… It seems so easy for everyone else and why shouldn’t it be, it’s such a simple task in theory!
Well the reason is this: you’re doing it wrong. And it’s the same reason you suck at life too. The purpose of meditating isn't to control or block out your thoughts, it’s simply just to notice them. Accept them. See what's there. Meditation helps you practice the skill of becoming an observer to your own mind, instead of consumed by it as though your thoughts are actually real or true. I’ve got news for you: your thoughts are NOT real!
Let me prove it: I want you, right now, to think to yourself “I am a banana”. Picture it. You are yellow, with a slight bend and you even smell like one! You can see your face in the banana skin and your hands popping out of the side. These are your thoughts now, but does that mean you actually ARE a banana?! No!!! Nor are you “not good enough” or “a fraud” or “a failure”, or whatever it is that your thoughts try to tell you you are (or aren’t). Living a fulfilling life requires acknowledging that little voice in your head that holds you back, and doing what YOU want, regardless of what IT tries to tell you.
Trying to control our thoughts – and failing – is exactly what we do with our emotions: we try to control, resist, ignore or push them away. We bury them. Then we mentally punish ourselves for not being able to block them out or deal with them. But emotions (and thoughts) are an inevitable part of life.
We are emotionally-driven creatures that justify ourselves with logic. You don’t do things (or avoid them) because it’s logical, we do them (or avoid them) because we have a FEELING that tells us that it’s what we want. And by letting our emotions be, instead of judging, resisting or blocking them, we can actually learn about them and understand what they're trying to tell us. Then we are in a better position to be able to manage them and live lives more fulfilled and on track with where we want to be.
Like resisting thoughts in meditation is impossible, so is resisting emotions in life. So learn to accept the things you can't control and focus on the things you can. And remember, you are not your thoughts. You are the observer of them.