A Meditation Exercise to Reduce Stress

Thinking about meditation… during mediation?

<— Yeah. Guilty….

Where do your thoughts seem to gravitate to when you consciously quite your mind? Your answer will show you the thought patterns that create unnecessary stress in your life.

For me, sometimes it seems every other thought during mediation goes back to thinking about building my career as a yoga teacher. Who do I need to call or e-mail? What kind of yoga sequence should I create for an upcoming audition? When will I have time to complete these tasks?

These thoughts are certainly not bad. In fact, they are quite positive. They keep me driven towards my goals.

However, because they bubble up incessantly during meditation, this shows me that my mind has constructed an obsessive thought pattern around this topic. This obsession has two, closely related consequences.

1. They keep me from being present with myself.
2. They create stress associated with these thoughts.

When our mind grips on to a thought or series of thoughts this tightly, it robs us from enjoying our immediate reality from moment to moment. The obsessive thought pattern instead transports us to live in the made up reality of what we “should” be doing in the future, or what we “should” have done in the past.

When we meditate, we practice living fully in each moment, one breath at a time. Noticing that the mind wonders over and over again to the same place, does not mean we are meditation failures. Noticing this actually presents us with the most auspicious gift. It reveals to us the thought patterns and corresponding areas of our life that we must bring more conscious presence to.

For me, my incessant thought patterns about building my yoga teaching career shows me that my mind and its current patterns are preventing me from enjoying the process of working towards my goals. Through observing these thoughts and consciously coming back to the present moment (again and again) during mediation, I learn first hand that only by being present with each step of my goals will I ever be fulfilled by them. And if I am unable to experience the joy and fulfillment of my goals, what is the point in doing them in the first place?

So again, I ask: where do your thoughts go over and over agin during meditation? If you don’t know the answer to this question because you do not have a mediation practice currently, do the following exercise:

Sit comfortably with an erect spine and close your eyes. Focus on your breath and begin observing your thoughts as if watching them through a pane of one-way glass. When a thought comes in that pulls you from this looking-from-the-outside-in perspective and envelopes your mind fully into the thought, make note of it and them return to the outside perspective. Do this for a few minutes. Five minutes is sufficient, but less is ok too if that is all you are able to handle for now.

When you are through with this meditative exercise, reflect on the thought patterns that pulled you from present-moment awareness most often. Your answers shows you the areas of your life that your mind has constructed obsessive, stress-producing patterns around.

Do not become discouraged by this information. Instead, use it to become empowered. Use it to become more aware of when these thoughts keep you from enjoying and participating fully in your life. And then remind yourself to enjoy!

Keep coming back to this exercise a few times a week, or even every day if you can. In time, this exercise – along with using the information you learn from it – will restructure your thought patterns to become less obsessive and stress-producing. As you notice your disruptive thoughts are less frequent during the exercise, the same will be true in your life.

Please do share with me in the comments below or on Facebook the thoughts that come up for you, and how this exercise helps you become more present, ease stress, and enjoy your life more fully.

Much love and Namaste.

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