44: treat your mind like a puppy on a leash

I’ve always thought of meditation as very cool.

Think of the old enlightened sage, perched atop a mountain, peddling out infinite wisdom to those heroes who make the journey. The go-to person for a calm, rational piece of timeless advice.

Rather than aspiring to be the hero, I always skipped right past to aspiring to be that sage.

Having mental clarity, peace of mind and body, and the ability to let go of frustration, anger, and hatred.

Those are admirable traits.

Of course, I’m well aware that practicing meditation isn’t going to cause me to sprout a long beard, nor do I plan to spend all of my time sitting around on top of mountains.

But from what I understand, meditation is an important tool in keeping one’s mind conditioned and one’s thoughts and emotions from taking control, as I so often tend to do.

So I’ve tried a few times to get into it.

I’ve looked into breathing exercises and tried coupling it with yoga poses. I even tried Headspace, an online guided meditation program that a few of my friends use.

I just wasn’t getting anything out of it.

And I think the problem was that I wasn’t quite sure what I was trying to accomplish. Sitting for 10 or 20 minutes and focusing on my breathe was peaceful, but once I stopped I would feel no significant change in myself.

I was still interested, however, and last night I went with a friend to a meditation group, during which I think I finally felt what I had been hoping to feel.

The session was very loosely guided, beginning with some very simple breathing awareness.

Then we were given an idea to ponder: What do you value for yourself, for others, and for the world?

Quickly things got out of hand. I began to wonder why I was doing any of the things I currently do with my life. My train of thought meandered from my career goals to where I wanted to live, who to surround myself with, the purpose of my time here on Earth, whether or not any of it mattered in the end…

And then off further to different ideas and topics until I was so far away from the original prompt that I got frustrated with myself.

So I would bring myself back to the original idea, and within a few minutes I was off again, my mind winding away into the distance while I wasn’t paying attention.

This happened over and over for several dozen minutes until the leader of the group rang a bell and everyone got up to leave.

I expressed my frustration to my friend, that I was unsure why I couldn’t meditate properly.

She reassured me that I was fine, and to treat my mind like a puppy on a leash.

A puppy is a curious, energetic creature that likes to romp around and sniff things and explore as it pleases.

Likewise, our brains are curious, and we should not get frustrated when they begin to wander.

However, like with a puppy, you can’t just let your brain run off into the distance. You have to call it back, tug on the leash train it to stay relatively close to you.

It can wander, just not too far.

Don’t scold the mind nor punish yourself mentally – just as you shouldn’t scold a puppy nor commit any violence toward it. Train it with patience and care.

And so I felt better about my ability, both in the short-term and hopefully in the long-term, to meditate in a way that works for me.

It was very refreshing, regardless of the wandering, to designate a specific amount of time to just close my eyes, breathe deeply, and try to meditate on one particular thought or idea.

I spend far too much time in daily life getting very worked up and distracted by difficult thoughts. I think that putting those thoughts aside when I’m attempting to be productive is important, as long as I make time to deal with them later.

That “later” is during meditation.

I look forward to attempting to incorporate small sessions in my daily life to see if it has an impact on how and when I handle my problems.

It’s my goal to become far less compulsive with my emotions and far more able to control my own mind.

We’ll see if that happens.

Peace.

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