This morning, my six-year-old son hopped into bed with me, and I asked him how he had slept. “Not good,” he replied, “I was trying to sleep, but my brain was like ‘Oh, I want to talk to you! Oh, I want to talk to you!’” Amused, I asked, “What did your brain want to talk to you about?”
“I don’t know,” he replied, “I didn’t say yes.”
Wow. Is this my child or a tiny little Buddhist monk? He intuitively knows that he is separate from the constant chattering in his brain AND that he has to give his consent to allow it in. It was only a few years ago that I came across the idea that we are not our thoughts. Meditation is a great way to practice letting go of all the thoughts that are buzzing through your brain, often causing feelings of overwhelm, worry or frustration. The goal is to be able to take control of your own mind when you feel yourself losing your temper, losing your focus, or lying awake listening to your brain chatter on.
Meditation is done by focusing on the sensations in your body without any judgement, the sounds and smells, the weight of your body, the air entering and leaving your lungs. Thoughts will inevitably appear, but the goal is to allow them to drift away as you bring your focus back to your body. You may be able to keep this focus by silently counting your breaths or repeating a word or sound. This is far more challenging than you might imagine. Despite all of your best efforts, your monkey mind will surely grab ahold of you and go swinging through the trees. You may not even notice that you’re lost in your thoughts until several minutes have passed. Similar to physical exercise, this exercise of the brain may be unpleasant at the time, but the benefits will last all day. Over time, your monkey mind will learn to behave. You will sleep better. You will find it easier to focus at work. You will be more present with those you care about. You will experience less day-to-day frustration. Just remember, next time your brain wants to talk to you, you don’t have to say yes.