It is said that we have an average of about 70,000 thoughts per day.
Most of these thoughts are about our interactions with people and situations in our everyday lives—what we experienced in the past, what we are experiencing in the present and our plans for the future.
Vedanta calls this tendency to think about things in the world outside the ‘extroverted-ness’ of the mind. When the mind is extrovert, its focus is outward.
In meditation, we are trying to reverse the direction and focus the mind inward.
The messy mind
The mind is a flow of thoughts. Right now, the mind is a flowing jumble of thoughts about your worries, concerns, regrets, anxieties, excitements and plans.
“I have to finish these reports by Friday” “He was so rude to me” “Maybe I should buy those concert tickets” “Oh, I better remember to pick up the dry cleaning,” “I can’t wait to watch the continuation of that show tonight” “ I should shut up—I’m always saying stupid things”, “I wonder what he thinks of me?” “Maybe I can cook chicken tonight” and so on.
The mind is a big, unorganized mess!
What happens when you try and sit for meditation?
You guessed it—that very same unorganized mess shows up in your consciousness.
Instead of feeling quiet and peaceful, those same thoughts come to plague you. In fact, it feels worse because now, you become anxious to shut them up and then frustrated when it becomes obvious you are fighting a losing battle.
It’s very difficult to stop the flow of thoughts.
How do you start?
Preparation for meditation
The traditional, sure and true method is to clean up, reorganize, and simplify your life.
Why do you have to do this? This is because your mind is made up of thoughts about your life. The more complicated and busy your life, the more busy and cluttered is your mind.
To clean up your entire life is indeed a very tall order—one that cannot be done all at once or in haste.
Take baby steps to relax the mind
Do a relaxing activity
You can slow down the thoughts through a relaxing activity.
You may find that doing some easy stretches and breathing works for you. You can take a bath with some essential oils, go for a quiet walk in nature, listen to some music as you relax on your couch, clean the dishes, dance, create art—whatever activity that you enjoy and relaxes you that can help slow down your thoughts.
Once the mind is relaxed, it is time to sit in your meditation seat and begin your practice.
Meditation seat and body posture
Make a relatively comfortable seat for your practice – one that is not too soft or too hard. A folded blanket or cushion on the floor or a chair works well.
Sit with your head, neck and back in a straight line. Gently close your eyes and keep your body relaxed but very still.
The body and mind are interconnected, and you will find that when you keep your body still, the mind becomes still.
Focus on your breath
Next, begin by bringing your attention to your breathing. Take slow deep breaths, mentally watching the incoming and outgoing breaths.
As soon as your mind starts wandering, gently bring your attention back to your breath and still body. Keep doing this over and over again.
Strive to increase the depth of your silence. Stay very focused and calm.
After some time, you will find that it becomes easier to still the body and slow down the thoughts.
The basics for any meditation technique
These then, are the simple preparatory steps that will help you get the most out of your meditation practice.
If you follow these instructions, it will become easier for you to take up any meditation technique.
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