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Meditation is a Boot Camp for our Attention

... not a way to stop our thoughts and make our minds go blank. We can’t stop our brain from thinking the same way we can’t stop our heart from beating, lungs from breathing or ourselves from paying the taxes for a long period of time without dire consequences.

This weekend I was at a wonderful yoga retreat where once again I heard that during meditation we should stop our thoughts. That's what prompted me to write this post.

It seems to be a persistent assumption that a lot of people (myslef included) have at the beginning. Let me repeat, meditation isn’t about stopping our thoughts, it is about training our attention "muscles". 

Thinking is one of the functions of our brains, a very useful and handy one, so please let us it do its job. But stop focusing on it 24/7. Our brains will be happy doing their thing in the background, the same way all of our other physical organs do their job wonderfully without us paying attention to them all the time. 

If we focus too much on our weight, on money, desires, work, you name it, we call it obsession or addiction. If we are too anxious about our health we call it hypochondria. If we focus too much on our thinking it's still considered normal. 

There is nothing wrong with a healthy use of our brains - thinking, analyzing, reflecting or making logical decisions. Unfortunately a lot of times we are indulging the other, less healthy side of our thinking ability - we project, we blame, we worry, we fantasize, we regret… without being aware of it or being able to shift our attention to a different area.

That is where meditation comes in - It helps us to train our attention muscles. It helps us to become aware and be able to intentionally PAY our attention on the things of our CHOICE. It might as well be thinking, if it is what we decide to invest our time and energy in at the moment, not a compulsive, uncontrollable thinking, but an intentional, productive and creative one. 

The trick is to become aware of our thinking and make our attention muscles strong and flexible enough that we can direct it to our thinking, our body, feelings, a conversation we are having, our loved ones...

The key point is again - whatever we CHOOSE to pay attention to, because most of the time we are compulsive thinkers stuck in our habitual thinking patterns.

First step is to start distinguishing between thinking and attention. Attention is an all encompassing thing and you can decide what to focus it on  (PAY it to) - and thinking is just one of a few things you should invest into. It is like diversifying your investment portfolio… 

P.S. Was this reminder helpful or is it that you knew all along? And there are a lot of different kinds of meditation to choose from, the same way there is an endless variety of music styles, leadership approaches, investment instruments and taxes:).

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