Meditation and the Mind

When I started the Emergent Writer series, I made a promise to my readers that this would include tips and strategies for bringing the mind and body together to help you improve your writing. So far, we've talked about going for walks to prime you for your dedicated writing time, intermittent fasting to clear the intracellular clutter from your brain, and ditching the snooze button to help you feel more rested and start your day with a win.

Today I want to talk about something that seems at first to have nothing much to do with the body, and everything to do with the brain: meditation. There are several things that you may think you need in order to meditate: a fancy meditation rug, incense, a singing bowl, flowing robes, or an eastern philosophy or ideology. Some of those things might be nice, if you're into them, but none of them is necessary. Far from its woo-woo perception in the western world, I posit that meditation is an entirely utilitarian and practical exercise that can yield real, tangible results (despite the paradoxical truth that effective meditation is done best when expectations for results are done away with).

"I'm not good at meditating."

"I don't know how."

"I can't shut off the noise."

These are things I personally have said about meditation, and which I continue to hear echoed by nearly everyone who takes the formative steps into the practice, before they "get it." There's a common misconception that the "correct" way to meditate involves quieting the endless loop of thoughts that run through everyone's minds like candy-fueled children in the hour before bedtime while you, the parent, try to corral them and make them obediently line up in silence. Fortunately, this isn't at all what meditation is.

The most useful instruction I've ever received about meditation was this: "It is impossible to sit still and quiet with the intention to meditate without actually meditating."

Whatever happens in your mind when you close your eyes and sit is meditation. The key is to stop trying to control your thoughts, while also not allowing your thoughts to control you. Those wild-eyed, screaming toddlers in your head are always trying to grab you up and drag you around with them, but what you want to do is let them go and watch. See what they do. Don't identify with them, because you are not your thoughts. Just let them be.

At times, you may experience a kind of bliss as you disconnect from your thoughts and worry slips away, and that's great when it happens, but it is not the goal of meditation, and attempting to reach this state can and will siderail you from the true benefits of it.

So what is the goal?

There really isn't one. But if you need one, it's just the practice of doing it. Set yourself a meditation timer (five minutes is more than enough for beginners, and twenty is plenty for even a seasoned, daily meditator), and just sit still and quiet through the entire duration. If you did that, then congratulations! You meditated!

If there's no goal, then what's the point?

There are benefits that can become apparent immediately, and there are others that appear after years of dedicated practice, and a whole gamut of benefits in between. They are as varied as the practitioners themselves, but some common ones include; a sense of calm in stressful situations, an appreciation of life's beauty, an organized thought process, the ability to pause before taking an action that may be regrettable, a knowledge of and authenticity to the self, the ability to be rigorously honest with oneself and others, and many others. As a writer, I'm sure that the usefulness of some of these benefits jumps right off the page at you, and you're not wrong. They are excellent for the type of mind that is driven to create.

So don't just do something, sit there!

Happy writing!

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