I hope you’re feeling happy and shiny today – or maybe you’re feeling sad and dull, and that’s ok too. The invitation is to show up as we are, not as we are best. So welcome..
Earlier in the week my mind has been wild with thoughts. It was quite an adventurous weekend and it took some time to unwind. Even after what I expected to be a restful sleep, the mind continued to mull over moments and ideas while my body, tired and cranky, tried to keep up. The mind is sneaky like that. It doesn’t care if you need rest, or have a work deadline, or want to sit in silence. It keeps doing what it likes to do best, narrating your life, whether you want it to or not.
During the mindfulness retreat I attended this past November, when asked why they were there, many people said they were trying to quiet the mind. And though one of the purposes of meditation is to do just that, I’ve yet to meet a person who has mastered silencing it all together. What we learn instead is to become an observer of the thoughts, a witness to the mind, and we choose what we want to look at. When we change this way of looking at the thoughts — as if they were pictures flashing past a mental screen, rather than making up who we are, we can begin to decide when and to which we want to pay attention. It doesn’t mean the mind will stop talking, we just stop believing that we always have to listen,
In his book, The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer writes: “There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind—you are the one who hears it.”
When we bring this idea into our practice — that we are not our thoughts — that maybe we are not even our physical body, but something deeper that is experiencing it all — that is when we start to experience true existence. We still acknowledge the thoughts, but they do not become our whole experience. When we are no longer caught up in their distraction, we become more available to all life has to offer.
Is this a little heavy? Sorry about that. Let’s try a simple activity. Today when you find a free moment. Set aside any distractions and close your eyes. See if you can connect with the part of you that is listening. You may call it your spirit, or inner wisdom, or the mind’s eye. It’s the part that’s sitting back and going along for the ride. See if you can tap into what it feels like to be that witness. Maybe you explore the sensations in your body, feeling every muscle and joint. Or maybe you pay attention to the room around you. Not forming an opinion about it, just feeling the temperature, the sounds. Ignite the senses and see what they pick up. Or maybe you decide you want to watch the thoughts. What story is the mind trying to tell you today? Are you able to acknowledge a thought and let it go? Try it again for the next one that pops up. Don’t let anything linger too long. Just observe as if you were a passenger on a train. Watching the houses, the cars, the people you passed by. Practice this for a few minutes. And then try it again tomorrow. You’ll start to notice you get better at it. Eventually, you may even look forward to it. Sitting quietly. Relaxing the body. Just being with yourself. Though life will continue to move, you’ll begin to feel the break in the chaos. The break from the mind’s chatter. The wakeful rest we all need sometimes. This is what it means to be mindful. It’s not sitting for hours in a state of numbed silence. It’s learning to live as we are — to just be, in our fullest expression.
In case you need a little help finding this stillness, last week’s guided meditation invites you to stop and focus on the one who is the witness. I hope it gives you a sense of calm so you can continue your day with a deeper sense of clarity and intention.