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How To Meditate Without Dying - The Life and Thoughts of Zach

Dec. 30th, 2008

09:32 am - How To Meditate Without Dying

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A big misconception about meditation is that you're supposed to "Not Think". You can't really stop your mind from thinking (unless you're dead!). The key is to not grasp on to the thoughts but to let them flow freely by without judgement, worry, or care.

Imagine you're watching a stream. And say a duck or a stick catches your attention as it floats past. Normally you might follow the stick or duck as it goes down the stream, moving your eyes and turning your head and watching it until you can't see it any more. Now you're not watching the stream anymore, you're watching the stick or the duck. Every day we do this with our thoughts. What if you just watched the stream? Something floats past and you notice it as part of the stream but you don't dwell on it, it floats out of view and you don't try to hold on to it. Even if the thing that floated by was a big ugly piece of trash you don't get upset that it interrupted your view of the stream, you accept it as just another part of the stream.

That's what meditation can be like. You just let your thoughts stream by. You don't worry about them, don't analyze them, don't try to remember them, don't try to hold on to them, don't try to follow them. Just let them be had. Some days you'll have a flood of them during meditation, things you have to do will pop up, things you're worried about will pop up, random discomforts you're feeling, itches you want to scratch. Other days your mind will be more quiet, more passive. Neither of these days is better or worse than the other, they are simply different states of the stream. And if you happen to give in to grasping some of your thoughts, maybe you break your pose and scratch that itch, or maybe you start to actually think about making plans for that thing on your todo list, notice that you've done that and forgive yourself for it, to dwell on guilt about grasping a thought takes you further out of your meditation than grasping the thought did!

Current Mood: peacefulpeaceful

Comments:

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From:anne_jumps
Date:December 29th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
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Well said.
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From:aabassplayer
Date:December 29th, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC)
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Well put, and quite precise...

I've always heard it as treating your thoughts as clouds passing in the sky as clouds are a bit more nebulous and ever-changing like our thoughts...there's no reason to try to hold onto them as they will float by and change shape...but the stream and your examples are much more pertinent to describing the grasping and attention aspect of the usual "thinking" moments in meditation.

re: "thinking" when you notice yourself following the duck, simply say to yourself "thinking" and return to the unfocused gaze upon the stream....using "thinking" allows us to identify the act and work with from it w/out assigning it a karmic weight.
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From:xandra_lj
Date:December 29th, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
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Nicely put! I always find one of the hardest things to be NOT to beat myself up for getting distracted. Simply labeling the process as "thinking" and going back to looking at the stream is the best technique I've found.

(40-day sadhana to begin in 2 days!)
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From:hssst
Date:December 29th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC)
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You too?! YAY!
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From:skywind8
Date:December 30th, 2008 12:38 am (UTC)
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Sometimes, especially during ritual or trancy times when I "should" be letting go of monkey-mind and just being present to the experience... when I notice myself getting analytical or drifting somewhere unrelated, I think, "Hmm, that's interesting. Now back to what I was doing..."

Sometimes a drifting mind means quite simply that I have relaxed and the subconscious is flowing and conscious mind is no longer in tight control of where my thoughts and feelings go. That is a good thing especially in trance work. And, just like night dreams, it can end up wandering far from where I choose to be mentally. This ISN'T A BAD THING. It's side effect of being lightly sleepy / drifty. And it's okay. And if it doesn't serve the trance or meditative work I'm doing at the time, I just notice where I am and what I'm doing and gently get back on track.

I do my best meta-programming work when I can relax enough that my conscious mind gets out of the way and quits chasing ducks, which may mean I'm getting a little sleepy, even though that means sometimes my thoughts get off-track from where I intended to be because the conscious mind isn't forcing it on-track. It happens. I let it be. I drift gently back on-track once I notice.

Other times, my mind drifts away from "the work" because of emotional resistance, fear, lack of clarity, bad timing, or other things that directly take me away from what I intended to do/be/learn. Then the drifting becomes a noticing of where I'm at emotionally, that I have feelings on the matter, that perhaps there is something important I'm avoiding or that I need to approach differently. It becomes information, a help on my path, something to be thankful for even as I release it.
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From:boannan
Date:December 30th, 2008 11:05 am (UTC)
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I've always found "still" forms of meditation excruciatingly difficult - this is a good description and I like the "no chasing ducks" metaphor :)

The most successfully meditative times for me are when I'm biking outdoors - the exercise takes away my nervous tension about meditating and I'm able to either quiet my mind or watch my thoughts go by.
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From:lylyan
Date:December 30th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
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Ok, this is very helpful. I have mild ADD which makes it really really hard to slow my thoughts at all sometimes, much less to meditate.

A side question --
What do you feel you personally get out of meditation?
How often do you meditate and for how long?
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