to think or not to think

After posing questions to the meditation session participants, inviting them to reflect on those questions, and then sharing in a silent group meditation practice, a participant asked,

“You give us lots to think about during the reflection time and then are we      supposed to stop the thinking during meditation?  I’m so confused about  when I should be thinking or not thinking.”

Great observation.

To think or not to think.  Is that the question?

There’s nothing wrong with thinking or not thinking.

The key is to have enough influence over your own mind so that your mind is not compulsively running the show 24/7 and dragging you along helpless for the frenetic ride.

 

Whatever you are doing, do it.

When you’re thinking, think.

When you’re meditating, notice the thoughts, notice the desire to think then train the mind to come back to the breath or the body while letting the thoughts go. 

porch solitude

 

I remember a time when I first started meditating, many moons ago, I was absolutely thrilled for some quiet time to sit and think during meditation. I had created no space in my daily life to think.

Clearly missing the point of meditation. But this view of meditation-as-permission-to-think viewpoint made training my mind to settle even more challenging .  I was filling the stillness and space with thinking.  Intentionally yet unaware...story of my life!  

 

But once I introduced intentional times of non-doing and constructive rest into my life and gave myself permission to indulge in as much relaxed-body and mind thinking time as I could handle.  This allowed the training my merry-go-round mind in my mediation practice easier. Not easy. Just easier.

To think or not to think is not the question.

Being aware of thinking and choosing when to do it and when not to do it is the practice.  It is your practice.  It is my practice.  Still.  Always.

It’s a question of who is ultimately in charge. You?  Or your mind?

 

nowhere to go. nothing to do. no one to be.

It’s hard to believe that it was four years ago now when I crossed a line. It was the day I removed my shoes and socks and stepped my bare feet over the border of my comfort zone and joined a community yoga class. Once there, I was continually stretching and stretched in more ways than one.

Before that fateful day, the only knowledge I’d had about yoga had come from the books and videos I’d borrowed from the public library. Confused hours were spent on the carpeted floor in front of my television wishing I could get a 360 degree view of the leotard-clad instructor so I could see exactly how her left ankle appeared to be attached to her right ear.

Mellow Monkey

Being in an actual class with a three-dimensional instructor was a much more effective way for me to learn especially since all the teachers at the studio were keen on the ‘come and watch’ version of demonstrating the pose first and explaining in detail the geeky why’s, what’s and how’s of each pose. And not once was I asked to turn myself into a human pretzel or attach my ankles to my ears.

At the end of my very first class, all newbies were instructed to lie down on our backs into what is known in Sanskrit as Savasana or Corpse Pose. After an hour of lengthening and stretching my overly-constricted body that had been tightly wound for several decades, I laid my shaking limbs down thinking that pretending to be a corpse for a few minutes would be just what I needed to recover enough for the long walk home after class.

Once the darkened room was quiet, and the softly-spoken instructions for the restorative pose tailed off, the teacher’s next words floated out over all the resting corpses like a blessing or words of commissioning that would accompany them to the new world of resting deeply. The blessing was:

Rest now. There is nowhere to go. Nothing to do. No one to be.  Just be and breathe.

And then silence.

And deep, deep relief.

I was totally off the hook. For the next ten minutes, I was given space and choice to do nothing. To let go of the need to produce, to power through, to prove. It lasted for a second. But for that second, I was free.  All I had to do was be and breathe.  I could do that.

That incredible feeling of liberation that came from this first experience was short-lived because, as a recovering perfectionist, of course I had to question whether or not I was ‘doing nothing’ correctly. Am I resting deeply enough? How could I be doing this better? Could the teacher tell that I was over-thinking it? Was anyone else struggling to stay in the moment? Obsessive much?

It has only been with time (years of it), self-compassion, regular practice and holding loosely onto outcomes that I have re-discovered subsequent moments of freedom from over-doing, over-thinking, over-producing. Beautiful, soft, liberating moments of non-doing.

Now, at the end of each of my personal yoga practices or as I am preparing to go to drift off to sleep at night or in the midst of a stressful situation, I assume the position of the corpse and bless myself.

Rest now. There is nowhere to go. Nothing to do. No one to be.  Just be and breathe.