When you observe a person meditating, all looks calm and serene. Well, looks can be deceiving! Unless you are looking at an experienced, well-seasoned meditator, it’s most likely not all calm and serene in there.
See, the purpose of meditation is to step away from the constant ramblings of the mind. When we are going about our daily business, we let our mind do whatever it wants to and most of the time we’ll do what it tells us to. For example, the mind says: “Eat chocolate”. You’re not hungry and you don’t even have any chocolate, but your mind is not going to quit saying “chocolate” until you actually find some and satisfy that craving. Annoying, isn’t it? Or, your mind wants to think about something that happened two years ago and it keeps bringing up the thought, like a continuous tape recording.
Sometimes it’s difficult to suppress those thoughts while you’re awake and doing daily tasks, but still you can distract yourself with other doings. Imagine sitting still with NO distractions. Hmmmm. That’s what meditation is. You keep watching the thoughts in your mind until they finally get fed up and go away. Thoughts travel in packs, too. You let one come in and others will follow.
Here’s how a meditation sitting might sound (from inside the head of a meditator):
“Relax, breathe deep, watch your breath. Don’t let the mind wander. In…. out…..in….out. Hmmm this feels nice. Relaxed, calm. Uh, I think we’re almost out of coffee, gotta add that to the list. I like coffee. Do I get too much caffeine? Be quiet, focus on the breath, but don’t forget to add coffee to the list.
Breathe in and out, focus on the breath…. Man, I’ve got so much to do, why am I sitting here breathing? Oh yes, it’s to get rid of you – mind. I want control of my life. Now stop arguing with me so I can properly meditate. Don’t forget coffee.
Breathe…… I miss mom and dad. Wish I could have introduced them to meditation, I think mom would have been fascinated. She probably wouldn’t have meditated, maybe would have just been fascinated with it. Breathe one, breathe two ….. damn it’s hard not to think! Focus, you can do it. “
At this point in time, probably 10 minutes or so into meditation, the mind will settle down if you just watch the thoughts and don’t get carried away with them. So after a few minutes of quiet stillness in the head, here it goes again:
“It sure is cool this morning. Reminds me of the camping trip to Colorado last year. I didn’t get cold in the camper though. Sure was a fun trip….. STOP!!!! Not going to follow you into the vacation replay, mind!!”
I’ve shared this experience with Avi, and he says it’s very normal and that even experienced meditators have random thoughts to squelch during meditations. They’ve just been practicing long enough to be able to step away from the thoughts much quicker. It just takes time.
I’m only one year into meditation and have been intensely (4 hours per day) meditating for 10 months now and I can say that the periods of absolute quiet, no thoughts in my head are simply “wow” and amazing. It’s like a drink of water after a long hike on a hot summer day. Right now I’m working my way through the brush and brambles to get to the cool drink of water!