All that we are is the result of what we have thought. We are formed and molded by our thoughts.” – Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)

According to NIH research, meditation may physically change the brain and body, help improve many health problems and promote healthy behavior.

How many times have we told ourselves that we wish we could stop thinking that or stop craving this or even not to react like that?

Training the mind

Meditation trains the mind to quiet chatter — typically thoughts of anxiety, fear, and self-doubt. Regular meditation allows us to realize that all of those thoughts are just thoughts, not who we really are. This knowledge and training can free us to focus on the present moment and enjoy a more blissful way of living.

It helps to see that we are not the mind and that the mind has no substance. It’s not instant, however. Those who meditate regularly often experience feelings of calmness, clarity and love. That’s where the real freedom comes from. Thoughts trigger behaviors and emotions. Mastering our minds provides a freedom to choose.

Meditation provides the skills to not become the victim of our thoughts. During meditation, we are rewiring our brains to train our minds. We gain the skill to think freely, to respond wisely and go from compulsion to choice.

I put some practitioners’ questions I received recently to a pool of meditation teachers (most of whom are also psychotherapists) and the following are the questions proceeded by their thoughts:

If a person feels relaxed and in the present moment, should they still meditate? If so, why?

If we are meditating to feel less stressed – that is a possible outcome, but it is not the goal. Consistent practice, either walking or sitting, is like investing. It is exercising the mind to gain control.

Additionally this implies that meditation is intended to make you feel peaceful, which is a misconception. Meditate on “feeling bad” and meditate on “feeling good”. Meditate without an expectation of receiving a particular benefit.

What happens when we check in with the pleasant and relaxed feelings – is there resistance, or discomfort that we are unwilling to feel? Where is the resistance coming from? And what does it feel like?

What about when we are having a very stressful, emotional day and don’t feel like meditating because it can’t possibly help to meditate in this condition…, right?

Sit in this condition too – acknowledging each emotion, to see if it softens the frustration.

When we feel overwhelmed, it may help to meditate by focusing on breathing long, deep breaths. Or perhaps to practice yoga or walk first before meditating.

But this practice is about getting intimate with this life that we are living, all of our experiences. We’re getting intimate with what it feels like to be alive.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom. -Viktor Frankl