One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that meditation is supposed to be about having a blank mind. This mistaken idea can even be found in stories and on websites promoting meditation. The reality is that you can't make the mind go blank, try as hard as you can it's impossible to have nothing in your mind. Meditation is the practice of quieting the mind, there's a big difference.
Our practice is about reducing the amount of thinking that goes on, quieting the never-ending mind chatter which seems to plague us. Many of the thoughts that run through our mind are supportive of our stress, anxiety, doubts and fears. They feed our addictions and self-doubt. When we practice mindfulness we gain some control over this clutter. When we reduce the noise we find more focus and can turn our attention to helpful things.
With great practice we can even, on occasion experience times when no thoughts arise at all. This doesn't mean the mind is blank it just means we are focused on perceptions, sensations, feelings and emotions....focused on how we feel and how we are. When we are able to focus on THESE things the mind is far from blank. This is the beginning of being mindful. Instead of being a mind full of the worries, fears, doubts and stuff; we have a mindful mind that is focused on what's going on in our heart, in the body and on our place in the world.
When we learn the practice of breath focus we are turning our conscious thoughts on the body. We start to notice our mind quiets and we are able to focus on the space we have within ourselves, the space we open up to others and our space in the world around us. It gives us the best opportunity to notice the body, the deeper part of the mind and the connection to our spirit.
Interesting and amazing things start to happen because we no longer reinforce the unhelpful emotions we usually feel. We find balance and with that we find happiness, and it's a different kind of happiness because we can focus on it. Our body starts to relax and we find newly focused energy because the doubts and negativity about our body goes away; we are able to focus on this energy and this good feeling and along the way find deeper pleasure. We find that the goals we set are more easily attained because we have better focus and can quiet the noise in our heads that make us doubt.
When we learn to focus in mindful ways we have anything but a silent mind. We have a fullness of thought, a focus of intention and a deepness in clarity. When we need to contemplate in meditation we do so in a less judgmental way, we can focus without the constant stream of thoughts running through the mind. We are able to take the thought and allow it to be there, to take center stage and be surrounded by awareness. We then can focus on our intentions with this thought, our emotions around this thought and the responses we have to this thought.
Compare it to watching a music video with images flashing and changing across the screen or standing in an art museum spending time in from of a work of art and taking it all in. In the video the mind is jumping and doesn't have time to focus on the image for long, when focused on the art the mind focused and reflective.
So again, meditation isn't about making the mind go blank, it's about reducing or even eliminating the inner self-talk for periods of time. It's about developing a mindful practice which in time can be something that we do all day long, living a life in mindful focus.
Great contemplation, great ideas and great health are the side effects of mindful practices....make it a habit you never want to quit.