A big misconception about meditation is that you have to stop your mind from thinking in order to be meditating. People often say: “I can’t meditate. My mind just won’t stop.”
It’s no wonder you think that way. Yoga teachers (myself included) say things like “Yoga is the stilling of the mind” to describe the effects of a good practice or meditation session. Alas, we may be creating ongoing confusion and frustration with that one little phrase.
Let me humbly explain. Your mind is not flawed or incapable of meditating if you can't stop your thoughts. The fact is, minds don’t stop, minds think. Thats what they do. The key is understanding that you are NOT your mind; you HAVE a mind :)
The yoga sutras are the manual of how to cope with your mind in all of its glory...good, bad, and ugly. Your mind is a wonderful thing,. Cantankerous as it is, its strength is an asset. It's your mind that takes you to your dreams. It's also your mind that can wear out your body if you never get a break from it. Meditation is planned breaks.
The sutras give us the easiest, quickest understanding of mind maintenance. The many chapters pick apart every little detail of maintenance.
I’ve been taught by my teacher to quote the one fast-track yoga sutra in my yoga classes. If you practice with me you've probably heard it.
yogash chitta vritti nirodaha
yoga is the stilling (or quieting) of the mind.
Well there ya’ go! Search no further, friends. You have your answer to all mind annoyances. Stilling your mind. Then, the next sutra follows with what you can expect to feel when stilling..
tadaa drashtu svaroope vashtanmam
then you experience your true self…bliss.
Sounds like a plan. Who doesn’t want to experience bliss? But it's easier said than done, right?
The word nirodaha is translated at “stilling”. This not “still” as in “stop”
Stilling is a process, not a result. Nirodaha can also be translated to mean to stop something from growing. Nirodaha is a continuous release of thoughts rather than the annihilation of thoughts. Trying to annihilate or stop your thoughts is repressive. Your mind does not want to be repressed. It will rebel and meditation will elude you. Your body wants a mind break. And with calm, patient training, your mind will retreat to the background.
To meditate is to release each thought, moment to moment. Meditating is letting go. It's saying…”not now, buddy…I need a break.” Big difference between that and repression.
Thoughts are released not cancelled.
Another sage, Sankaracarya calls it tiag or to let it be. When I read this, I immediately thought of the Beatles song Let it Be. There’s your first and last meditation mantra. Go ahead, sing it!
Sit down in a comfortable spot. Breathe for a few moments. Close your eyes and allow everything be as it is. Let it Be. Then you are meditating.