I meditated every day during June, and here is the main thing I learned: for me, meditation is not about silencing my mind. Meditation is about being less attached to my thoughts, stepping into a state of awareness, not assuming that my thoughts are what defines me.
I’ve gotten frustrated in past attempts at meditation because I am rarely able to completely quiet my thoughts. In fact, sometimes when I sit down to meditate my thoughts intensify. Even though in my (very brief) studies of meditation modalities, I’ve seen it said that meditation is NOT about stopping the thoughts, it’s about less attached to them, letting them pass like the weather. Even so, I’ve always felt like I wasn’t “doing it right” because my brain often insisted on being so loud during meditation.
During June I started attending a weekly meditation class. This teacher uses iRest meditation (iRest = integrative restoration) which is a modernized, westernized interpretation of traditional yoga nidra. One thing I really like about this approach is that we are not guided to let go of our thoughts. Instead, we are guided to become deeply aware of our bodies. When I am able to connect more with my body, I do very much find that my thoughts are less overwhelming.
This all probably sounds quite “duh” to anyone with more meditation knowledge and experience, but it’s been a big shift for me. Most of the meditation I’ve tried in the past was in the framework of focus on the breath, let thoughts go. But I’d often find myself sitting there thinking about letting thoughts go, then thinking about how I wasn’t letting thoughts go, and basically getting deeper and deeper into a mental wormhole quite counter to the entire point of a meditation practice.
And on a personal level, I’ve also been working on simply accepting the fact that I have a noisy mind. The noisiness inside my head is something I often try to resist, and sometimes it is not an ideal experience (hi anxiety). But on the otherhand, the noisiness in my head is also what leads me to contemplate life in deeper ways. It is what leads me to question, to experience, to create.
I’m planning to continue my daily meditation practice for the forseeable future, but not with the goal of eradicating the noisiness of my mind. It is useful to create distance from my thoughts, to be in my body, to know that I am more than my mental ramblings. But I’m also embracing the fact that alongside all the noise, my brain also makes a pretty damn beautiful symphony.