Meditation 101 For The Millennial Monkey Mind
“I’ve tried meditating, but I can’t. My mind keeps racing.” This is a common conundrum of anyone who’s ever tried to meditate. Meditation is thought of as this superhuman skill of silencing our thoughts. It’s either complete and total mental quietude or, you are miserably failing at meditation. Stilling one’s thoughts may be the eventual goal of meditation, something you can do perhaps with years of daily practice. But, it’s not the process of meditation. Meditation, in simple words, means one-pointed focus, and you don’t have to sit in the lotus position to do it. In fact, meditation can be either static - as in, when you sit or lie down in meditation, or dynamic, as in, through movement like asana practice, some forms of martial arts, and dance.
Now, with this in mind, let’s come back to meditation for the monkey mind. The monkey mind is one that has a flurry of thoughts running, that is easily distracted either by its own thoughts, or by other activities. Frankly, in this gadget-heavy, digital culture we live in, all of us have monkey minds! Often, I find myself pausing my reading, even when I’m reading a fun book, to randomly check my phone. Or, pausing a piece of writing in the middle to open a new tab and add to cart things I’ll never buy. We’re all easily distracted. So, to think that meditation is harder for our generation than it has been for previous generations is not unreasonable. We’re wired a tad differently. But, this is also why we need it more than ever before - we need to find ways to centre and ground ourselves, and meditation is a great one!
Even with so much going on in our heads, how many of us, and how often, do we simply sit with our thoughts? For the millennial monkey mind, this is a great place to start when it comes to a meditation practice: listen to your thoughts.
Every day, for ten minutes, put away all your gadgets, and simply sit, and think
Focus on your thoughts. Don’t brush them off. Don’t question them. Don’t suppress them. Don’t react to them. Simply listen, like you were listening to someone else, and didn’t want to interrupt. Let the mind wander, and see where it takes you. You don’t know what layers you’ll begin to peel.
Journaling is a powerful meditative tool for two reasons - the pen, much like the mind, when allowed to move at its own will, can take you to recesses of your being you didn’t know existed. And two, journaling means you can document your journey, and see how you evolve with time.
Meditate on your breath
The breath is one of the most powerful tools we have, when we want to centre ourselves. For one, we can access it anytime, anywhere! Besides, an alarmingly large number of us don’t breathe right in our day-to-day. Because we don’t pay attention to our breath, we don’t realise when we’re holding it in, or when we aren’t exhaling completely. Focusing on your breath will not only give you many of the benefits of mediation (increased concentration, clarity of thought, feeling calmer and relaxed), it will also improve your breath. So, for ten minutes every day, practice conscious breathing, where you take deep full inhalations and exhale slowly and fully, keeping your focus on your breath.
Meditate on a mantra
It doesn’t have to be a religious mantra, and you don’t have to chant it out loud. The logic of the 108-beaded rosary is the same as focusing on breathing. It’s just a string of words you are concentrating on, as opposed to the repetitive rhythm of your breath. The advantage of having something you repeat over and over again, is that soon enough, it becomes autopilot. That’s when you enter a meditative state.
Listen to music
But, not for the sake of listening to music. That’s a different sort of pleasure. Put on some music that may aid your meditation practice. A simple Google search of ‘meditation music’ will get you many results. Go through a few, and find your groove. Play it in the background, and follow your breath or thoughts. When you lose concentration, bring your focus to the music until it becomes white noise and your mind takes you where you need to be.
Don’t be too rigid
You’ll lose focus every now and then. That’s fine. Come back to it. Meditation is neither a destination nor a permanent state. It’s a process, and one that is often non-linear. So, don’t think that you have to be some spiritual guru in the making to reap the many benefits of meditation. It’s a practice made for humans. So, be human.