by Tom Sterner
Meditation is a word that evokes reactions in everyone, some good some not so good. In reality meditation can be compared to reading. Reading is a skill and once that skill is acquired it becomes a tool. With the skill of reading you can choose to use it to read a religious text, a cookbook, a self-help book or a book on making better investment decisions.
What you are really doing in a meditation session is becoming more aware of the thoughts that your mind is producing with or without your permission. This cultivates the “observer” in you. It gives you the opportunity to be the observer of your thoughts instead of being absorbed in the emotional content of the thoughts your mind creates. This in turn empowers you with choice because you cannot change what you are not aware of. For that reason, I call it thought awareness training instead, and it truly is something that everyone can benefit from for multiple reasons.
Thought Awareness Training is simple. It does not involve elaborate props, hours of your time, or a teacher. It involves you sitting, quietly for 10 to 15 minutes a day and either watching your body breathe or repeating a short phrase that you choose in your mind. This can be something as simple as “I am still”. Your mind is a problem-solving machine and with no problem to solve it will go looking for one. Initially you won’t notice this but at some point you will “wake up” and realize that you are someplace other than in the present moment paying attention to your breath or repeating your phrase. When that happens you simply reset your focus on your task, so simple and yet so empowering.
It’s good for you. Thought Awareness Training slows down your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and even helps people fall asleep when their mind is trying to run away with them. It slows your mind down and thins out your thoughts which gives you clarity, and focus.
You literally cannot be bad at it. There is no such thing as a bad meditation session. Depending on what is going on in your life, some days your mind will be more agitated and so more rebellious as it seeks to run off and solve what it considers problems facing you. Other days you will be more relaxed and your mind will be calmer and the effort won’t be so much. They are both normal and everyone experiences both states. Don’t make the mistake of misinterpreting chasing your mind and constantly bringing it back on task as a sign that you are not doing well. You can’t chase your mind if you are not “noticing” what it is doing. Growing your awareness of what your mind is doing is the goal.
It teaches you to control your emotions. With each thought our mind produces there is emotional content that we experience be at comfortable or uncomfortable. Thought awareness training at its core does several things. It makes you aware of the thoughts your mind is producing which gives you the opportunity to choose if those thoughts will serve you in a positive way and each time you pull your mind back onto task it increases the willpower necessary to do that on demand. You become the master instead of the puppet.
It boosts your energy and productivity. Like it or not, thinking is draining. The number of thoughts and the content of the thoughts your mind creates without your awareness or permission takes energy. The fears, the judgments, the emotions – all impact your energy level. If your mind visits a scenario that makes you feel upset, it’s using up energy in those emotions, and also detracting from your ability to focus on the task at hand. Being able to bring it back into the present moment gives you full access to your consciousness and increases your productivity while decreasing your fatigue factor.
Regardless of the method you choose, the end goal is better control of your own thoughts, actions, emotions and expenditures of energy. The more you tap into your own Observer, and recognize what thoughts you choose to have, and which ones come unbidden, you can better control your expenditure of energy and time by focusing only on the thoughts that serve you. Who couldn’t benefit from that?
Thomas M. Sterner is an international best -selling author and the founder and CEO of The Practicing Mind Institute. As a successful entrepreneur he is considered an expert in Present Moment Functioning or PMF tm. He has brought clarity to thousands regarding how they can accomplish more with less effort, in the least amount of time and with greatly reduced stress. For more information visit www.tomsterner.com