Do you find meditation easy? Can you still your mind, gently let go of your thoughts and focus only on your breathing? No? Me either.
The concept makes sense, but it always seemed like I was doing it wrong. I’d look around at the other yogis in my class, who all seemed so zen-like and focused, while I couldn’t get my brain to shut up. And the louder my thoughts got, the more frustrated I became. I kept telling myself, “No, no, no! You’re doing it wrong! You should be able to do this like everyone else!” Eventually I gave up trying– it was impossible to meditate with all that noise to fight off.
Then one day at a workshop, the facilitator made a suggestion that clicked. Instead of telling yourself to clear your mind and focus on your breath, tell yourself to think about whatever you wanted to. “HA!” I thought to myself, “I do that anyway.” As my mind began constructing to-do lists and engaging in other random thoughts, something strange happened. As soon as I stopped fighting my thoughts and let them be heard, they moved on. The usual “should-ing” and self-judgement stopped, I got to think about what I needed to think about and then it was over. My mind got quieter and meditation was a snap.
Fighting ourselves, our thoughts or our feelings is a pointless and exhausting exercise. We often think it gives us control, but all we really get is an ongoing battle of “should-ing” on ourselves– telling ourselves we “should” stop doing this or “shouldn’t” feel that way. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember the last time the word “should” was actually useful for anything.
Accepting difficult situations and acknowledging unpleasant feelings doesn’t mean you’re “giving in.” In fact, it’s a powerful tactic to help you stay in control. Allowing yourself to lie on the couch and watch Netflix during a depressive episode does not make you weak– accepting that this is what you want or need allows you to enjoy it. When we should all over ourselves we end up feeling worse and ruining our favourite show. This self-judgement and “should-ing” sucks the joy out of pretty much anything we do when we try to be gentle with ourselves.
The simple act of acceptance, thinking “I am enough,” “how I feel is valid,” and “what I need to do right now is okay” can transform your life.