Recently I have helped a dear friend who has been struggling. Life has thrown more than its fair share their way, and it has disrupted their mindset. My lovely friend isn't much for riding the tumultuous "emotions-of-the-past" rollercoaster, and I have no desire even to recommend the rocky ride to them. Due to lockdowns and health issues, my friend is limited to what they can do to support a healthier mindset, and this got me thinking what a fine line it is between meditation and distraction.
The reason for meditation is to still the mind, to give the inner self a break from the little mind of negative self-talk, the continual repetitive mind chatter and create a space for the higher self to be. This expansive mind space allows ideas to flow, positivity to enter and expands our perception of seeing beauty in life. This is the space where we understand our inter-connectedness, and joy becomes our way of being.
For many people, meditation can seem an impossible feat, one that is best left to monastery monks, hermits or unattainable yogis. The thought of sitting still for even half an hour, without moving, without thinking, can seem terrifying. What about the washing, the bills, the kids? What am I having for dinner? Did I turn off the iron? My nose itches. Better put tissues on the shopping list, and on it goes, the never-ending mind chatter.
But the good news is this type of meditation is not the only choice. Anything that stills the mind is meditation; guided meditations, gardening, walking, knitting, cooking, and even gaming, to name a few. The secret is that the task is done thoroughly and totally in the present moment to quiet the mind. The more focus we give this skill, the more naturally a still mind becomes our everyday. We develop our positive mindset as we would for building muscles, day by day, step by step.
Finding something that brings you joy and fully immersing yourself in stops the mind from thinking. One of the first things I used was listening to mantras whilst I buzzed around the house tending to children and housework; I still love listening to Deva Premal, and my mind is instantly at rest when I hear her music.
If you are new to meditation, here are some tips to quiet the mind:
Visualise thoughts like clouds and allow them to pass by.
In your mind, write a list of all your concerns, then during meditation, you can tell yourself it is on the list.
Remind yourself this is your time out just to be.
Visualise an old fashioned writing desk; as the thoughts come up, you put them in the drawers and pull down the cover, ready for when you have finished.
Back to my suggestion of gaming, this sounds like a distraction rather than a meditation, and to some degree, I agree. Yet, I have met people who use formal meditation as a distraction from facing life. Life is about balance and intent. It is about taking self-responsibility. Only you know if you are using a skill to improve and develop or to distract and escape. Meditation, no matter what form you choose, is there to enhance your life. It is to make life easier to face and make those quiet times, when you are alone, a pleasure to be in your own company.
And as for my friend, well I have a few suggestions for them. I hope these will make their days easier, make them feel less angry and isolated, and assist them in finding the much needed inner peace they desire.