Meditation for the Western Mind
Many people find quieting their mind to be difficult or impossible. That doesn’t mean they are flawed. It means that meditation is not the best technique for their western mind. Try this instead!
When the Noise Will Not Stop
For many years, I faithfully practiced meditation. Twice each day, I’d sit for twenty minutes and quiet my mind. I seemed to adapt easily to the practice, and I enjoyed the peacefulness. As a busy executive with three small children, I truly believed that silencing my mind was my secret to success. But when I suggested to others that they might want to try meditation, they frequently commented that the noise would not stop. If they sat still for even a moment, their mind went out of control. They ended up fretting over their inability to calm their mind and often made things worse.
After about twelve years of daily meditation, I woke up one day and could not imagine myself meditating. I wondered if the cooties of my non-meditating friends had rubbed off on me. I took it as a sign that something new was coming my way. I didn’t force myself to meditate.
Do you really want a quiet mind?
After awhile, I realized that a quiet mind was not my ultimate goal. I loved thinking, imaging, and creating. What I wanted was a loving, compassionate, and nonjudgmental mind. I wanted a mind that supported my desires and dreams and didn’t feed me criticism or problems. I wanted a mind that could discriminate between true and false, a mind that did not accept thoughts that were wrong for me just because another saw them as true. I remember thinking to myself that I wanted my mind to be so loving that if someone could cut it open and read it like a book, they would see nothing but love for them inside. This was my intention; but I had no clue how to fulfill it.
My mind was no longer quiet. In fact, it seemed that all those years of meditation were a complete waste because my noisy thoughts came back once I stopped. My mind obsessed about stupid things. It judged others and myself. And it seemed to believe everything that everyone said. I tried going to healers and therapists but nothing helped.
After some time, my noisy mind began affecting my health. But, I didn’t want to go to a doctor, nor did I want to go to any more healers or therapists. I felt very strongly that I needed to fix this problem myself. But how?
I asked myself, what do I have control over? The answer came into my head, “My mind.” I almost started to laugh. It really felt that my mind was thinking me rather than the other way around.
I sat down, focused on the uncomfortable sensations in my body, and just let my mind speak. I decided that I would watch my mind for five minutes and see what was in there. I made no attempt to quiet my mind or to change it. I just allowed the thoughts to arise naturally. I watched my mind like I was watching a movie. On the one hand, I was horrified at the thoughts that arose because they were so negative. On the other hand, I knew that I was witnessing the thoughts that caused my health problems. They were all right there within my own mind.
Discrimination is the Key
It occurred to me that perhaps the part of me that could observe my thoughts had the ability to discriminate between true and false. My goal was to heal myself. So, I decided that I would assess each thought that arose. If it contributed to my goal of a healthy, vital body I’d let the thought alone. If my mind offered a thought that was contrary to my desire, I’d label it false. I didn’t do anything except choose between true and false—no special breathing, mantras, or tapping on energy meridians. If emotions arose, I observed them too. Three hours later, I was still watching my mind. I was having fun, and I felt so much better. I finally understood the Greek maxim to “Know Thyself.” This was my mind; and yet, I realized that I took better care of my car.
I continued this practice the next day with a variety of different intentions. Some topics were easier than others. I didn’t judge myself. I did the best that I could. After a few days, the thoughts that arose in my mind seemed more potent; many were accompanied by strong emotion. I realized that I was now accessing beliefs. Beliefs are just thoughts that we hold as truisms about life. We think these thoughts over and over. Because we don’t challenge the beliefs, we see proof of them when we look into the world. Beliefs are not true, although they may be our reality. In fact, the word belief has the world “lie” embedded within it, hinting at its purpose.
Our acceptance of beliefs gives them power; and that power causes them to manifest in our life. Likewise, when we recognize them as mere beliefs that are false, they lose their power to manifest.
The Role of Emotions
I could now see that the thoughts that I labeled false had emotion attached to them. Thoughts that were true were emotion free. It was the strong emotion that made these false thoughts feel real and permanent. I felt that I could not let them go. So I decided to see what would happen if I just witnessed the thought and its accompanying emotion until it was gone.
As I silently observed the emotion without labeling it or trying to understand it, I decided that I would remind myself that the thought was not true because it didn’t contribute to my intention. Quite honestly, I didn’t know if I could make these beliefs disappear; they felt so strong and powerful. But it was worth a try.
The first few beliefs took about twenty minutes each to dissolve and a great deal of courage. I didn’t like feeling the emotion. But eventually the emotion and the belief were gone. Often I’d have a major insight in the moment when the belief finally dissolved. The reward of clarity and insight kept me motivated to repeat the process again and again. Once I knew what I was doing, it went faster. Eventually, I supported the emotional clearing by thinking words such as “This belief is not true because it doesn’t feel good.” My mind had now agreed to let go when I said those words.
Big Desires, Big Beliefs
As I kept with the process, I realized that bigger desires pull up bigger beliefs. I found that I had personal beliefs, beliefs about others, beliefs about groups, and beliefs about people in general. I was shocked at how many beliefs I had stashed away. I had beliefs about the earth and the universe. I had endless beliefs about food. I found that all diseases were merely beliefs, and I believed in lots of them. I had beliefs that I picked up from studying different religions and belonging to spiritual groups. I had beliefs about beliefs. But each time I let one go, I felt relief from the emotion and a moment of clarity.
I’ve shared this technique with hundreds of people. Everyone can do it. Children love it, and do it easily. It would be simple if we had not been programmed early in childhood with so many beliefs. Our long-standing beliefs that have been creating our reality (and have lots of emotion attached) take courage and will to dissolve. Ancient cultures called it facing the dragon.
Each time we let go of even one belief, our mind gets clearer. Unlike techniques that fix the effect of our thinking like medicine, therapies, and positive thinking, discriminating and letting go truly cleans out our mental closet. Eventually, our mind is quiet except for the thoughts we choose to think. As we let go, our True Self fills the vacuum left by the false self and gives us strength to face the next round of thoughts. Eventually, our perspective on life changes and so does our reality. As we continue letting go, we come to enjoy our mind much like we did as children. Our creativity returns. Our imagination plays with us again. And we realize that another person could now cut open our mind and would find nothing but unconditional love.
Try it out for yourself:
Set aside five minutes and get comfortable. Set an intention or desire. Let your mind offer its thoughts. Don’t put thoughts in your mind; simply let your mind speak. If the thought contributes to the goal, acknowledge that it is true and decide to keep it; if it does not serve your goal, recognize that it is false, a lie, and you don’t need it. If emotions arise, just watch them; acknowledge that a false thought is leaving. Avoid labeling or suppressing the emotion. You might like to journal your insights.