Don't Expect Your Thoughts to Stop
Meditation terrifies some people. They think they won't be able to do it "correctly" because they can't stop their inner dialogue in its tracks. Given that, they imagine that meditating will be just sitting with their thoughts. The idea of being bombarded by mental chatter without the distractions that modern life usually provides -- social media feeds, work, emails, household to dos, etc. -- seems like torture.
These are misconceptions. And I'm on a mission to disabuse folks of these misconceptions.
First of all, you don't have to stop your inner dialogue in order to meditate "correctly" or get the benefits of meditating or enjoy meditating. I have been practicing Kundalini Yoga for about 20 years and meditating a lot for nine of those years, and I have yet to experience a cessation of thoughts. Even so, I LOVE meditation, and it has been my rock.
Second, if you choose a Kundalini Meditation, you are not just sitting with your thoughts. You have tools to distance yourself from the monkey mind.
Most Kundalini Meditations offer a position of the arms or hands to maintain. Then, there's a specific breath practice. Frequently, there's also a designated eye focus to manage. And finally, there's usually either a chanted or silent, internal mantra attached. Each of these tools serves to bring you out of the stress of the everyday mind and into a more neutral, blissful state.
Let me unpack a Kundalini Meditation to show you what I mean.
Take Meditation for Tuning Up the Frontal Lobe of the Brain for example. And let's use Michael A. Singer's term the "neurotic inner roommate" to personify and understand the mind's fluctuations.
Before I begin my meditation, my neurotic roomie is front and center chattering away, talking to me about all the other things I should be doing instead of sitting and meditating. I get into the position. I raise my arms to shoulder height and turn the left palm down and the right palm up (as shown above.) I know I'm supposed to hold this for 11 minutes. "Hmmmm," says Roomie. "How are you going to do that? Eleven minutes is a long time. That's going to get difficult. I don't like difficult."
I begin the prescribed breath of fire. Breath of fire itself takes some attention to maintain, and it starts to get a little crowded for Roomie, who's still fairly determined to be heard ("You really should have finished the kids' laundry. What kind of mother are you anyway?").
There's no eye focus indicated for this meditation, but I use the third-eye dristi -- beneath the closed lids, I direct the eyes up and in (as if trying to see through the center of my forehead). This is my favorite focus. The sixth chakra, the center of intuition, is located here at the brow point. Directing the focus toward this intuitive space is pushing Roomie back even further until it's hanging onto the door jam -- clinging for dear life: "Listen to me!!!!!! Everything's a mess!!!!!!! So much to deal with!!!!!!!!."
So, I bring in the big guns... Mantra. When I practice breath of fire, I like to use the mantra Wahe Guru. It seems to fit well with the speed of breath of fire. Wahe Guru means "a great celebration of the energy which moves me from darkness to light." Silently and internally, I match Wahe Guru to the breath.
Wahe Guru. Wahe Guru. Wahe Guru. Wahe Guru. Wahe Guru. Wahe Guru. Wahe Guru. Wahe Guru. Wahe Guru. Wahe Guru.
Now, the Neurotic Inner Roommate is starting to get the picture. It releases its grip on the door jam and retreats to the background, into a back corner mumbling -- still lobing thoughts at me but they are muted and distant and without force.
My thoughts don't stop, but I change my relationship to them. My roomie doesn't move out, but my Higher Self is taking up more space. I'm focused on Wahe Guru, a positive, ancient sound which affects my consciousness. I'm elevating with breath of fire. I'm creating a picture of myself keeping up, keeping my arms up even when the going gets tough.
Roomie might emerge from its corner at points along the way, and I'll have to refocus my eyes, intensify the breath of fire, or remember Wahe Guru. And, of course, in this position, my shoulders will fatigue, and I'll have to talk Roomie out of putting them down. The point is it's a non-linear process that, in my experience at least, doesn't feel like pure serenity.
So, please forget about the goal of thoughtlessness. In the Kundalini world, we accept that the mind will be fast with thoughts, and we provide tools for not letting them take over. The tools don't stop the thoughts. Instead they take away their power to injure and their power to divert you from your sacred moment.
Blog by Cate Baily
Cate discovered Kundalini Yoga by accident over 20 years ago and was surprised and thrilled by how engaged, energized, and inspired it made her feel. She's been practicing ever since. Click here for more complete bio.