When we think of meditation, we often think of sitting on the floor with crossed legs or maybe a group of people in yoga poses on a mountain top. We tend to think of what it looks like and how unattainable it sounds. Free my mind from thoughts? Okay, sure. When we try to sit down in silence, our mind barrages us with thought after thought after thought and suddenly five minutes have passed and we think to ourselves – I’m terrible at this.
What we tend not to understand is that meditation isn’t about clearing our mind of thoughts. In reality, we can’t be terrible at meditation because there is no goal, no desired outcome, for meditating. Meditation is merely the act of awareness. To be mindful is to meditate.
This makes it easier, doesn’t it? Instead of freeing our mind of thoughts, we simply need to recognize that we are having thoughts and – ta da – we are meditating! Luckily enough, studies from Yale University have shown us that the mindfulness meditation actually decreases the part of our brain responsible for mind-wandering. This leads us to believe that with more practice, fewer thoughts (although not the goal) may begin to happen naturally – both during and outside of meditation.
Not that this is all there is to meditation. We aren’t here to think about our thoughts, we are only here to label them. And of even deeper importance than awareness of our thoughts is awareness of our breath.
So next time you think about meditation, think outside the box. You don’t need to sit on the floor with your legs crossed in front of a candle with your mind clear of all thoughts. You simply need to sit (or stand or walk or eat or dance!) and breathe – mindfully.
To learn more about the health benefits of breathing and meditation, see our other article Meditation and the Emotional Body. Feel like giving it a try? Join us for our Mindfulness Meditation for Stress Reduction program!