You are not your thoughts … Just sit with that if it’s new to you. How often do you create space between your Self and the running of the mind? Maybe not ever. If that’s the case, you’re caught in a cycle of action-reaction. Driven by the emotions and your past pain. This is human suffering.
We glamorise meditation and mindfulness. We make it so complicated. But all it takes is practice. The hardest part is to commit to yourself to do the practice, continually, every day. You may be amazed how simple that actual techniques are. Like, silly simple. But just watch the excuses you make to yourself to get out of it. Because this is the pain we’re comfortable with and honey, better the devil you know, eh?
But you’re here because you’re ready to get started. These are the steps I practice every damn day, and as much of the day as I am conscious. These work if you work them!
You’re Not Your Thoughts
It’s not what happens to us that makes us happy or sad. It is how we relate to what happens. Every circumstance is filtered through our experiences and that tells us how to react to it. Our thoughts are dictated by our past. If we carry unprocessed pain and trauma, that colours how we relate to the world now.
So we, as we stand now, are not our thoughts. They are simply a collection of our experiences through which we choose our experience. But we are so attached to the thoughts, to the labels and ideas we have of ourselves, that to step outside that can seem impossible. Because without them, what are we. Oh honey, that’s the Self.
So, if you’re new, how do you create space between You and the thoughts? Here’s when the Work begins (because this is your work, if you choose to take it on). You need to find stillness.
First, still the body. Even if it’s just for two minutes – because trust me, this shit sounds much easier than it is. It doesn’t matter what position you’re in; you do not have to be on the floor, cross-legged! Find a position that gives the least physical distraction. Basically, get comfy.
When the physical body is still, find the breath. Not changing it or doing anything with it. Just watching the flow up through the abdomen to the throat and nose on the inhale, and the reverse on the exhale.
Here’s the secret. The mind WILL wander. It’s been allowed to wander freely for years. We’re not trying to stop the mind. We’re trying to focus it. So the mind will go off, outside of the body, outside of the room, outside of this time – either in the past or the future. When it does, meet it with compassion and draw it back. There’s no benefit in frustration ‘ugh I just CAN’T do it’, that’s just the ego, love. When practicing stillness for five minutes you may draw the mind back five times or fifty times. But that’s the practice. It’s in that little compassionate to-and-fro in which you will find your Self and all the good stuff that goes along with that.
Oh Hi, Inner Dialogues!
I think this line should be on the wall of every meditation centre and needs to be vocalised at every sit. The ego mind – the home of the thoughts and the labels with which we identify – does not like being ignored! She will get cranky. Then she will get shouty.
The longer we’ve gone letting the mind run as it will, the more it’ll kick up a fuss when we begin to still it. On the surface you may appear at complete peace, seated comfortably, eyes closed, breath even, but inside? There’s a one-sided battle being fought. I say one-sided because the Self doesn’t need to engage. To engage would be to feed that ego mind and, essentially, give it the attention that it wants. Poof, stillness gone!
So when you begin to practice stillness, it isn’t ‘easy’. The ego feeds off attention and here you are, depriving it of food for maybe the first time. Notice the dialogues that arise here. The ideas that you ‘can’t’, any notion that this isn’t ‘working’ or you’re not doing it ‘properly’. Frustration, anger, discomfort, doubt … helllllloooo ego!
But it IS working! One of the struggles I see with students is they expect magic. They expect a seismic shift, usually during the first few sittings. They expect something to ‘happen’. Remember this isn’t the house of the ego. You’ll have nothing to hold up after your practice to say ‘value me because I did this’ or ‘look how good/virtuous/enlightened I am’. But, with practice, you won’t care. You’ll detach from the labels and the external valuations of yourself. And THAT shines out of every pore.
Step Outside the Loop
I always say the practice of yoga or breathwork or mediation on the mat is just the warmup. The real practice is in the world. It’s how we interact and move through the plain we’re on. So let’s move into the real world with this…
You’ve been practicing your stillness. You know you’re not the thoughts. And you meet a family member (because don’t you know that nobody can push your buttons like family!). Most family members have built up so much ‘stuff’ between them that their reality is filtered through a tunnel of labels and associations and past trauma. It comes out the other side a distorted version of itself.
Watch your reactions. When something annoys you or makes you insecure or angry, stop there. Notice that this comment has elicited this reaction. Can you recognise that this reaction comes from the ego? That it is formed through lingering, unprocessed past experience? Can you detach from the labels that are feeling threatened by this comment? The label of ‘good’ or ‘smart’ or ‘educated’ or ‘successful’. All these ego-based stickers we slap over the Self. Can you not react from the ego as you normally might?
This is a practice, just like your meditation. Maybe in a conversation you may catch several ‘triggering’ moments. The more tied up you are with the person you’re dealing with, the more challenging it can be to step back because there’s likely buttons being pushed left, right and centre. But try! Set the intention.
Now you are outside of the action-reaction cycle. Do you know the power in that space? You can now assess the situation and decide, with intention, how to respond. You can choose to disengage from the ego. You can choose not to attack back. You can choose what is the best path for your higher self. YOU CAN CHOOSE!
I get so excited when a student says they had their first experience outside of the loop. They always say an iteration of the same thing, ‘I can’t believe it’s that simple!’. It really is that simple. A matter of recognition and practice. That’s it.
Review your Intention
So you found your space. You’re dancing in all the possibility of choice. But wait, now you have to choose. Like, you have to make a decision. A decision for your ‘higher Self’? Ok, that’s a lot of pressure….Oh hi egoic thoughts!
The best tool that have found for this point of the practice is to consciously review the intentions behind my options. And it all boils down to this: am I acting out of Love or out of Fear?
It’s all Love or Fear, my friends.
If my response feeds into the ego it’ll come from a place of self-elevation or self-destruction. It’ll be manipulative. ‘If I do this, I’ll get this outcome …’. Now expectations are a story for another day but feeding into fear will never be satisfying for our higher Self.
Acting out of Love is compassionate, to ourselves and others. It will hopefully challenge some labels we have of ourselves or others. You may feel vulnerable. This is the magic.
To be able to consciously decide to act from Love is a superpower. If we all had this skill the world would be a very different place. With this ability, you are a change-maker.