I meditated without realizing it for over 40 years when I was a runner. I ran six miles, six days a week. I’d start running, and a minute into it I’d be in my “runner’s trance.” The great thing about running for me was being unable to keep a focused train of thought on a subject even if I wanted to, so I experienced a free flow of thought, without the voice in my head grabbing any of the thoughts and ruminating on them.
At the time, I didn’t realize I was getting a similar experience to the formal meditation that I’ve now been doing for the last ten years. I’ve found that the meditative process consists of shutting down the usual thought processes of my mind to allow my mind to free-flow with whatever thoughts come into it while I’m meditating, without my being attached to any of them.
How the Voice in My Head Is Like My Two Dogs
I do my meditation practice in a peaceful room in my house with my eyes closed. Sometimes, if I’ve forgotten to close the door, my dogs come in and nudge my arm so that I’ll pet them. I know they have a loving agenda, and yet they can take me out of the meditative state. My answer to this is to give them their chew toys, to take their minds off of me. It’s a win-win for all of us!
When I begin my meditation, the voice in my head can be just like my dogs wanting my attention, chattering to me about that day’s “pebble-in-my-shoe” problem. And like with my dogs, I have special tools—in this case, my mantra and focusing on my breath—that occupy the voice in my head and help me to meditate.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines mantra as “a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated by someone who is praying or meditating.” I was given the word for my mantra by my meditation teacher, and I silently repeat that word to myself over and over during meditation to quiet my mind. I get the same effect of quieting my mind when I consciously focus on inhaling and exhaling.
Repeating my mantra and focusing on my breath are “chew toys” for my mind because they divert the energy and attention of the voice in my head, allowing my mind to not hold on to “pebble-in-my-shoe” problems and opening me to experience a meditative state.
I now see that while I ran, the act of running—my feet moving and my mind being occupied by constantly scanning the path in front of me so I wouldn’t fall or run into anything—was also a “chew toy” for my mind that opened me to a more expansive state and created a feeling of well-being and peace.
The Rewards of Meditation
The biggest reward from my meditation practice, then, is going into an expanded mental state that is similar to dreaming even though I’m awake. Dreaming while asleep allows our unconscious to actively work out the agendas of both our conscious and unconscious problems.
Meditating allows me the same free flow of thoughts to pass through my mind, and although I’m conscious of the thoughts, I’m not trying to hold on to or control them. It’s just like watching clouds float across the sky. I see this process as allowing the neural pathways in my brain to free-flow while I simply witness the inner dialogue and let it go.
The Practice of Meditation
I find that meditating for twenty minutes twice a day has given me an inner tranquility that I would have no access to without it, which is why I recommend it to you. To find out more about meditation, and to access free guided meditations, visit marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm, a website hosted by the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, where I studied meditation.
- 26 Jun, 2014
- Posted by Steve Fogel
- 0 Comments