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Meditation has been scientifically proven to have many health benefits, like reduced anxiety and better emotional health. While this is great, I also see many people struggling with incorporating meditation into their daily routines. Even though it takes some effort to adopt new habits, there’s one thing at play that doesn’t like meditation. At all. This is the mind. In this blog, I’ll explain why meditation is difficult.
To avoid all evil, cultivate good, and cleanse one’s mindThe teaching of Buddha
So, I won’t deny that experienced meditators won’t have too much trouble meditating whenever they want because the wise part of their thinking mind has become dominant. However, the average person, myself included, often experiences an overly active sense: eager to solve puzzles, analyze past events and calculate future possibilities, no matter if it’s past midnight. A mind is a precious tool. But when it’s out of control, it can also be a destructive monster. The quality of our thoughts is important because emotions are the consequence of it.
The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.Emperor and Stoic philor Masophercus Aurelius
Negative thoughts most likely cause fear, anger, or grief. Positive reviews most likely cause laughter. It’s not uncommon that people in a constant state of negative thinking end up depressed or anxious. This makes overthinking dangerous because sufferers may end up hurting and killing themselves. The ancient practice of meditation proves to be a cure for the restless mind.
The Buddhists call such a mind a monkey mind because it tends to jump from branch to branch. Currently, Western health care has begun acknowledging the benefits of meditation, so we increasingly see doctors prescribing it to their patients. The most common form of meditation is breath meditation. It’s straightforward. You sit down or lay down and watch the breathing. You can focus on how the breath enters your nostrils or how it fills up the lungs and belly, and you can also focus on the moments between the in- and out-breath.
The mind will do anything to divert your attention to the thoughts it produces. And when that happens, you focus your attention back on the breath. And when it happens again, you bring your attention to your breath again. The essence of this practice is that you don’t engage with your thinking mind but just let it be and watch the thoughts come and go like clouds in the sky.
By focusing your attention on the breath, you anchor yourself to something that is not your thinking. Even though the practice is simple, it’s tough for many overthinkers to do it regularly. I experience that the more active my mind is, the less I want to do it.
Especially in the evening, after a busy day with lots of distractions, my thinking is often so excited that I’d scroll down the Facebook feed or watch pointless videos on YouTube rather than sit down for twenty minutes watching my breath.
How to stay away from distractions?
This doesn’t make sense because checking social media and watching videos is even more tiring for an already tired mind, while watching breathe gives the reason for a break. So, what’s the problem? The Buddha also noticed that it’s difficult to tame the mind. It is terrific to subdue the mind, so brutal to stop, even swift, and seize whatever it desires. A tamed mind brings happiness.
The struggle is that the mind that knows that meditation is good for you is the same mind that doesn’t want to stop thinking. This part of the mind doesn’t like meditation. It hates it simply because meditation subdues its very purpose: thinking. Now, we can make distinctions between mental states. A mindfulness-based therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy used to treat mood disorders distinguishes three mental states: the reasonable mind, the emotional mind, and the wise mind.
The emotional mind is a non-logical state dominated by emotions and creates a very subjective view of reality. The reasonable mind operates based on facts and is excellent at planning and analyzing. Both of these states, however, can be out of control. The wise mind is a healthy balance between the two; it’s the part that knows what’s best for you.
In a state of turmoil, the little voice that knows that the mind needs a break comes from the wise mind. The emotional mind, however, wants to be wholly immersed in feelings, whether anger, grief, or laughter. And the reasonable mind wants to solve the future’s problems and sort out past events, exhausting itself.
The stronger the practical and emotional mind is, the harder it gets to listen to the wise mind’s voice. Meditation is a method to tame the mind, even though it doesn’t want to be tamed. That’s why it’s so difficult to meditate regularly; it’s going against the very thing that the mind enjoys doing. Luckily, there’s always a part in us that knows what’s best. The key is: listening to it.