It is a common cry, ‘I can’t meditate, my mind is so busy, it will not settle down…!’
Sometimes is is spoken with some element of pride, as if have to a mind full of constant activity is somehow to be admired. Sometimes it is spoken in desperation, someone who desperately needs to relax, a chance to calm down.
Constant activity in the mind is truly nothing to be admired. A fly flying at random around a room on a hot summer’s day may be admired for its persistence and its endurance, but at the end of the day it is going nowhere, achieving nothing. Activity for the sake of activity is generally pointless, and it is no different with thought. Directed, guided thought is something to be sought after, something useful. But a cascade of random thoughts to no end is the essence of pointless.
The second person has come to this view. To this person, if a thought is pointless, why have it? It is tiring to the point of exhaustion to have a constant cascade of thoughts flying around to no end and no purpose. This person recognises that they can and should have a rest.
The good news for both the proud and the tired is that everyone can meditate. It requires nothing special, no in-born talent, simply the desire.
It is useful to consider thinking as being similar to rubbing thumb and forefinger together. To be able to rub thumb and forefinger together properly requires opposable thumbs - and it is the opposable thumb that makes us able to use tools, and that plays an essential part in our very being as humans. Rubbing thumb and forefinger together is of almost unfathomable use to us.
But it does not mean we need to spend out entire time rubbing our thumbs and fingers together. We should, rather, be comfortable in our ability to do it when needed, but we should be comfortable to give it a rest otherwise.
And so it is with the trains of thought that rush in and out of our minds, some linked, some unlinked and random. For the most part, these trains are of no use whatsoever. We are rubbing our thumbs and forefingers together for no better reason than we can.
We can train ourselves not to think. What we do is fill our minds with concentration, and thoughts slow their cascade. A mind that is a mess of random jumbled thoughts suddenly becomes a calm and serene environment. All there is in our minds at this point is concentration. We can achieve this. Everyone can.
But eventually. In time.
The brain is so very used to thinking that it tries everything it can to keep thinking; when we start to meditate, its first move is to interrupt the concentration with a thought, and another to hang it on: ‘I’m hungry,’ becomes ‘What should I have for breakfast?’ becomes ‘I have no milk,’ becomes ‘I wonder if I will meet Sue down the supermarket again today?’ - the thoughts are off and running and suddenly we are a million miles away.
And all we do is bring ourselves back.
It takes practice. We commence sitting and concentrating, and we try to let thoughts go as they arise. We fail, over and over again … but we keep trying. When our minds wander, we bring them back. Again and again. And because we are practicing it as many times as our mind wander, we get better and better at it.
If in our first meditation we can concentrate for 15 seconds at a time, perhaps by our second we will be able to manage 25 or 30 seconds. And then longer and longer.
The point is, it will happen. No matter how loud your brain is, no matter how filled with thoughts your every waking moment is, with practice, you will learn to be still. You will learn to relax.
You will learn serenity.
More on Anamaya
Get the App
Anamaya is a comprehensive meditation course and self-development resource.