If the practice of meditation has taught me anything, it’s the art of acceptance– acknowledging the fact that the mind is a sneaky rascal and attempting to control it is an exercise in futility.
I’d be listening to Tamara Levitt’s guided body scan meditation, and my mind would be somewhere else. It remembers how something that happened a long time back was unfair or makes up stuff that’s unlikely to happen. And whenever this happens, my body manifests symptoms of anxiety in some form, such as a tensed forehead or shallow breathing.
It’s like my mind isn’t bothered to pay attention to Tamara’s mellifluous voice. It continues to vibe on its own (mostly plotting vengeance against a packer-and-mover who duped me for some money in 2018).
However, something snaps and brings me back to the meditation, and while I’m trying to focus on the temples, the meditation has already moved on to the back. I’d say shit fuck, become aware that I just cussed, and try to reconcentrate.
I used to get angry and upset at not being able to concentrate despite meditating every day. After all, I’m supposed to become a pro at meditation, controlling my thoughts, and banishing negativity from my life with a 21-day meditation practice. That’s what the elders of pop-science say, right?
But over time, I’ve realized that our mind works differently from the rest of the body. The mind keeps getting thoughts out of nowhere and our body keeps reacting to it. For instance, I’d be minding my own business and my mind would conjure up some crazy thought like, “What if I lose all my clients tomorrow?” This causes my body to experience some symptoms of anxiety like tensing the jaw or forehead.
When this happens, I also get rational thoughts like how this is so not going to happen or even if the worst were to arrive, how I can figure my way around it. But the emotions have already permeated into the body. This whole stimulus (thought) and reaction (symptoms in the body) happens so swiftly that I don’t even get time to respond appropriately.
Meditation has helped me become aware of one thing, and it’s that I can’t exercise much control over my thoughts and how my body reacts to them, but I can certainly create some distance when I become mindful of it. In other words, to let go of my compulsion to control my thoughts and bodily reactions and deal with them whenever they occur.
Now, when we get caught in the spiral of anxious thoughts, more than thoughts, our physiological responses are better indicators of what’s happening in our minds. Shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, stiff body, tensed forehead, these all responses tell us we’re off track.
So, is all hope gone? I think not. There’s a way that’s helped me regain composure pretty constantly. And the way is to take one deep breath at a time. As my meditation practice has deepened, deep breathing has helped me increase the space between the stimulus and response.
Again, this method may not work all the time. There are no surefire tactics or seven hacks to get the mind and body under control asap as possible, but it’s a good starting practice nonetheless. Sometimes, we just have to sit through the experience until it fades away.
And in the end, remind ourselves to let go of control and accept. The mind is unpredictable, and no amount of disciplining it can make us its master.
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