I used to think meditation was sort of ridiculous. I had this idea that you had to ‘turn off your brain’, which for me was just the most impossible thing I could think of. My brain has always been a non-stop whirlwind of half-remembered ideas and snippets of song lyrics and noise, always noise. To even weed that down to just a few thoughts at a time seemed hopelessly out of reach, never mind the stillness required for mindfulness meditation.
Eventually I came to the understanding that meditation can mean different things to different people. There are thousands of legit mindfulness meditation techniques, and probably hundreds of thousands of adaptations people have made that work for them personally. The important part is that you’re finding a way to clean up your thoughts and give yourself a break from that whirlwind.
I’ve developed (or more accurately, borrowed and adapted) a few helpful mindfulness meditation techniques that I’ll be sharing on this blog, but I’d like to start with one that helped me get out of a particularly foul mood a while back.
I actually have no idea where that mood came from. I was out running errands, having a perfectly normal and non-upsetting day, but then when I started heading for home — BAM. Absolutely black mood. Life was terrible and everyone hated me and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
I thought about trying meditation, but everything just felt too dark and bleak. The idea of blanking my brain wasn’t at all appealing — in fact, it was actually sort of frightening to picture nothingness while in that frame of mind. To counteract that desperately lonesome feeling, I decided to focus on the connections in my life. On each breath I would think about one person in my life, one person I have a connection with, and let the thought of that person and their concern for me fill my mind up right to the very edges.
On my inhale I thought about my mom, who’s the world’s kindest person and loves me more than oxygen. On my exhale, I pictured all of the dark thoughts leaving my head as a cloud of black smoke.
On my next inhale I thought about my dad, who actually thinks I’m funny and inspires me every day to accomplish even an 1/8th of what he’s accomplished. On my exhale, I pictured all of the dark thoughts leaving my head as a cloud of black smoke.
On my next inhale I thought about my brother, who lives to annoy me but would also take on an army if they looked at me the wrong way. On my exhale, I pictured all of the dark thoughts leaving my head as a cloud of black smoke.
By the time I was halfway up the hill to my house, I had run through about 60 people with no end in sight. They weren’t all close family and friends of course; some of them were simply coworkers I got along with, shopkeepers who joked with me, old friends I only see on Facebook. People whose lives I’ve affected in some small way.
The difference was unbelievable. Every exhale cleared a little of the blackness until I felt light as air, buoyed by the reminder my life is inextricably connected to other people. Putting your own concerns aside and considering your effect on the world around you is a powerful mood-lifter!