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One of the first questions someone asks me whenever I share with them that I try and meditate on a daily basis is something along the lines of this: Does it work? Do you actually clear your mind and stop thinking?
I’ve taken four meditation seminars now with teachers who have a LOT more meditation experience than me. And all of them have focused on the process of what they call “waking up” in meditation. What they mean is that moment when you realize you are following your thoughts, and changing your awareness back to what they call your anchor.
And honestly, until recently, though a part of me would nod inwardly… okay, change my awareness, fine… I’d have this snide thought, off to the side, what a bunch of zen hooey. Change your awareness? What does that even MEAN?
What they all mean is focus.
When you sit down to meditate, you are actually training your brain to focus on what you tell it to focus on. You start by paying attention to your breathing. Your thoughts are all still there, in the background, like a bubbling stream (or for me, sometimes like a pounding waterfall!).
And when I drift off into those thoughts – which inevitably happens, multiple times, sometimes all the time – I bring my focus back onto my breath and start over. I “wake up.”
Meditation, then, for me, is the process of unshackling myself from my very well-worn thought patterns; the to-do listing I do, the planning ahead, the worrying about work and all the STUFF that needs to get done, the avoiding of feeling something potentially icky.
It’s not easy, I won’t lie. There are days where I struggle, and I keep opening my eyes to see how much longer I need to sit there and focus on breathing.
But on the mornings like today, when right from the start of the day the bands of anxiety are wrapped tightly around my chest and I feel disjointed and racy and scared and worried? Those 15 minutes I spend breathing and uncoupling from my thought patterns are the best minutes of my day.