Thank God. Alleluia! And Amen!

My meditation space. Photo by Susan Fischbach Isacs

I am not my thoughts. Thank God. Alleluia! And Amen! Especially in the middle of some long nights, inside my head is a pretty rough neighborhood to get lost in; but since I took my first meditation class two years ago things are improving; I know those tough characters who like to harass me don’t really know what they’re talking about anyway. I don’t need to listen to them.

One of the most important lessons I learned in meditation class was that, contrary to popular perception, the goal of meditation is not to empty your head or to have no thoughts. While we did learn to focus on our breathing, the breath is really only an anchor to keep our minds from ruminating about past failures or spinning off into future catastrophic scenarios. The aim of meditation is to stay in the present moment, but we were taught very plainly that our minds are our minds and they were made to think. I am not to take it as a surprise or failure, then, when my mind wanders during meditation. I haven’t failed — my mind is only doing what it knows how to do; I merely need to gently (without judgment) let the thought go as I bring the focus back to my next breath.

This pertains not only to sitting in meditation, I have found, but also across all areas of my life; As long as there is another breath coming I can begin again. With this realization I learned to have compassion for myself (I’m pretty sure you’re too hard on yourself, too) and, by extension, to have more compassion for other people. When I realize something is distracting me — whether in meditation, in life, or maybe in the negative loop of messages in my head — I can let go of any of it, forgive myself, take a deep breath and begin again. I am not my thoughts. Thank God. Alleluia! And Amen!

What characters hang around in the neighborhood of your mind? Perhaps it’s time to call their bluff. You don’t need to buy what they’re selling. How would it feel to take a deep breath and walk away from those messages?

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