I knew meditation was good for me.
Good for my mental health, relaxation and probably a million other things.
I knew I could do with some help and relief from my over thinking Monkey Mind. It sounded a bit woo woo, but what did I have to lose?
I decided to give it a try.
I downloaded an app.
I sat down.
I was ready.
Bring on the magic, inner peace and singing angels.
What happened next?
Where are my angels? Where is my inner peace?
Instead of inner peace, the thoughts inside my head went crazy. If anything they got worse, not better. I already had a loud and annoying inner critic voice. Meditation just seemed to make it louder.
In my mind, meditation and being alone with my thoughts was about as appealing as getting a root canal at the dentist.
I decided I was a meditation FAIL. That was the end of that.
My thoughts got LOUDER. I decided I was a meditation FAIL.
Then I discovered there were some preparation steps I could take BEFORE trying to start a meditation practice.
Why had no one told me this before?
Think of it like this..
Its a bit like when I have tight, inflamed muscles. I know that deep tissue massage would help keep my muscles supple. But when everything is sore and inflamed, deep tissue massage makes things worse.
I would need a short period of rest, hydration, ice and gentle movements BEFORE I could benefit from a massage. I would need
I would need preparation steps.
I needed these 4 PREPARATION STEPS before I could feel the benefits of meditation.
The 4 important things I needed to learn BEFORE I could enjoy meditation
1) Know that negative thoughts are normal human behaviour
You mean there’s nothing wrong with me?
Everyone feels like this sometimes?
2) Know that I am not my thoughts
Wait, you mean just because I have the thought of “I am a loser” doesn’t mean it’s true, doesn’t mean it’s ME, doesn’t mean I need to take it seriously.
Also, I learnt some invaluable tools to unhook from my thoughts.
The analogy that works for me…
I am the blue sky, always there. My thoughts and feelings are like clouds, temporary and separate to me.
Reading The Happiness Trap book opened my eyes to all of this. I then went on to study under the book’s author Russ Harris.
* My meditation before learning this – Meditation would bring up thoughts such as I’m a failure, or I should be doing more of XXX, etc.
I would attach to and believe those thoughts. It was horrible. No wonder I hated meditation.
* My meditation after learning this – Some negative thoughts still pop in my head during meditation, but I can observe them as separate to me and watch them float on by.
3) Bring down my overall stress response.
My fight, flight or freeze response was stuck on high. I found it near impossible to sit and quieten my mind. I had to deal with this first, before I could enjoy meditation.
Yes, of course meditation can bring down the stress response, but for absolute beginners its a bit like the inflamed muscle and massage example above. There are many easier and gentler ways.
Once my overall stress response came down, I could finally allow myself to sit with myself and my thoughts.
4) The goal of meditation is NOT to stop your thoughts, its to stop letting them control you.
The final thing I needed to learn was that there is no magical place to arrive to. No angels singing.
The few glimpses I had of being still and in the moment… that IS meditation. I could allow myself to be a beginner and know that I can get better over time.
Also knowing that the practice is the purpose. Every time I get caught up in my thoughts and bring myself back to the present moment, I am strengthening that muscle.
Like doing exercise reps for my mind.
Meditation also reinforces the lesson that “I am not my thoughts”. Meditation shows me clearly, that I am the observer of my thoughts, they are separate to me.
This has given me back so much confidence, control and freedom.
So there you have it,
The 4 things I needed to learn BEFORE I could enjoy the wonderful benefits of meditation.