Mindgames & Meditation / by Anita Cheung

As a self-diagnosed bonafide over-thinker, I admit that I often analyze and over-analyze everything around me. While helpful in academic settings; in the real world, the chattering of this monkey mind doesn't always serve me. The mind is a meaning-making machine and often, the stories I weave in my head about situations are far from the truth. Below are some examples that I'm sure some of you can relate to:

Situation: Potential BF/ GF is out partying with a group of coworkers, one of whom you know is attractive and single. You text but hear no reply.
Mind says: They must be making out in the bathroom. Maybe he/ she has gone home with the coworker! 
Reality: Potential BF/ GF is simply busy having fun. Who wants to be the party pooper always on their phone?

Sure, there was probably a raging trust chasm and some self esteem issues mixed in there, AND, not detracting from those, it is still safe to say that the mind played some wicked games. Or how about this:

Situation: Walk into a party where you don't know anyone. No one talks to you. (Or maybe one person talks to you but he/ she keeps looking around the room)
Mind says: I'm such a loser. Even this person I'm talking to is looking for a way out. Is it because of what I'm wearing? Am I not interesting...? etc. etc.
Reality: Other people can be shy too! We tend to stick to our comfort zone (aka with those we already know). 

So here's the truth. Our thinking brain (the part of our mind we access consciously) is not programmed to default to happiness  It is designed to keep us alive. What this means is that in the good ol' caveman days, we had to fight with sabre tooth tigers and wooly mammoths. In our present day, we cope with the modern dangers of unpaid bills and rejection. If you really break it down, trying to avoid rejection really isn't too far off. After all, even in our prehistoric days, rejection from the tribe meant a hermit life alone in the wilderness. As such, we are hardwired to compare ourselves to others and to focus on where we're not fitting in, for fear or being rejected.  

So are we all just doomed to live with our monkey mind? 

Here is where meditation comes in. Meditation allows us to rise above the primate playground of our minds. Most people who are new to yoga think that meditation is either a private jet plane to the Maldives, or an elusive unicorn. In other words, it's a luxury that not everyone can afford, or it simply doesn't exist. These people sitting on their mats with their thumb and index fingers touching can't really be without thought... can they?

Of course they can be, but as with most things- it's a practice. While it looks effortless, there is a lot of mental training to get to that guru point. Just like you wouldn't expect to jump from playing in a water park to diving off an olympic springboard, there are steps to get into meditating. 

1.) Keep in mind that meditating does not necessarily mean relaxation. Especially when you are first starting out, meditating is simply observing what you observe. Take a seat, take a deep breath in- and just notice everything there is to notice about being present. What scents do you smell? sounds do you hear? and sensations do you feel?

2.) Practice hovering over your thoughts. Any thing you're thinking about, notice that you're thinking about it, and then tell yourself you'll get to it later. 

3.) Focus on your breath. Whenever your mind feels lost amongst the monkey chatter and the scenarios of the past or future, guide your mind back to your breath. That could be counting your inhalation and your exhalation (example: inhale-1-2-3-, exhale-1-2-3) or it can simply be observing your breath and your body as it reacts to your breath. 

4.) If you find your mind wandering- do NOT get frustrated with yourself! Simply notice it "oh- there goes my mind wandering again. okay. back to the breath." 

Start with this practice and start with just 5 minutes of meditating. Over time, you'll find you've become pretty good at putting those chatty monkeys to sleep.


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