It is no secret that meditation is beneficial for our mental and physical health. However, knowledge of whether something is good or bad for our health is rarely incentive enough to change our stubborn habits.
At 17, picking up meditation was the last thing on my mind. Among typical teenage non-goals, mine included eating more vegetables, getting adequate sleep, or drinking less. But, as fate would have it, I happened to come across a short documentary on silent meditation.
“If you can’t stop your brain from thinking for even a minute, do you really have free will?”
This was the epiphany-moment that prompted me to integrate silent meditation into my daily routine. After all, who doesn’t want to feel like they are in control?
However, the phrasing of that question highlights a popular misconception about silent meditation. While it is true that a goal of silent meditation to be achieve thoughtlessness, rarely is the process of reaching this goal ever described well. Many friends have shared that silent meditation can be extremely frustrating (oh the irony!). Actively trying to stop thinking often opens the floodgates to everything we don’t want to think about.
The topic of mental health came up in conversation with a friend recently. I shared that what helps me not get frustrated with silent meditation is my attitude towards the practice. I treat it as time to simply observe, rather than the time to forcibly enter the “stop-thinking” zone. I passively observe as thoughts arise, and eventually subside. Don’t try to stop thoughts, rather, wait until they run out of steam. Don’t place too much emphasis on your breathing. Breath however it feels comfortable. Some days your brain just needs to go through a lot before it finally reaches a state of stillness. It can take many sessions to experience thoughtlessness, but it is definitely worth the wait. That is what I do as I set aside 15-35 minutes of my day. I sit still, observe, and wait to reach thoughtlessness.
Regardless of whether I experience it or not in every session, being suddenly aware that my shoulders are shrugged, my neck stiff, or my jaw clenched, helps to relax, unwind, and recharge.
Have you ever tried silent meditation? Share what inspired you to start in the comments below.