So What's The Scoop Here?
What, really, are we trying to do while meditating?
This is a crucial question, because if we understand the answer, then meditating will become a piece of cake.
Brain Scans and Teddy Bears
It has been demonstrated that when we meditate, we use a different part of our brains than in normal waking consciousness. Basically, we use a portion that deals with directly experiencing the world around and within us. This portion can be contrasted to a different section of the brain that's stuffed with our internal narratives. (If you're interested, you can read all about these brains areas at Oxford Journals.)
So while meditating, you are resting in that portion of your brain that deals with direct experience, as opposed to narrative experience. So, instead of hearing a dog bark and starting up a train of self-talk about how the dog is a very bad dog and Mr. Jones is a very bad dog owner, you just hear a dog bark.
Oh I know. Easier Said Than Done.
Sure. But we've got a teddy bear on our side....
Remember little Maggie and her lollipop? You'd never dream of just snatching it away from her, would you? Instead, you'd get her attention occupied with something attractive, like her favorite teddy bear.
In the same way, we're going to attract our attention with something that should keep it fairly well occupied. What we'll do is a technique we can call "Cycling". We're going to cycle our attention between three different types of "objects" (an "object of attention" is anything our attention occupies itself with: our bank statement, a mantra, the wart on the tip of Mr. Jones' nose... whatever).
Object Numero Uno: Sight
The first type of object we'll pay attention to will be whatever we are seeing behind our closed eyes. That's basically a warm glow of reddish, darkish light - however you would describe it. Nothing there really, but we'll look at it anyways.
Object Numero Due: Sound
The second type of object will be whatever sounds we are currently hearing. We don't seek out particular sounds to hear, and we don't try to follow or analyze in any way the ones we do hear. When our attention gets attracted away from one sound by another sound, we let it, without attempting to stay with or concentrate on the first sound. It's really just whatever we are hearing at that moment in time and it doesn't matter what it is. No sound is better or lesser than any other sound. All sounds are created equal.
Object Numero Tre: Touch
The last type of object will be whatever we can feel touching our body or making sensations within it. This is basically touch, both "external touch" like the sensation of the clothes on your skin or your bottom against the chair and also "internal touch" like your stomach grumbling, your breath flowing, and your left little toe itching. Again, all these sensations are created equal and we don't seek out or tell stories to ourselves about any particular sensation. Whatever sensations arise, in whatever order they arise, that's what we attend to.
So sight, sound, touch. We'll cycle between these three types of object, spending a few seconds on each one. That will keep our attention occupied with all the varieties of things it sees, hears and feels without overloading it on just one object (like concentrating on a single mantra or watching just the breath). And by doing this, we'll find ourselves in exactly the place we want to be: direct experience as opposed to narrative experience.
What To Do When All H*LL Breaks Loose
The narrative will arise, of course. The self talk will always start up, sooner or later. But that's okay. If we get lost in self-talk, then eventually, when we realize we're lost in it, we just go back to cycling and for a while the self-talk settles down again.
The crucial aspect of this technique - and also why it works so well - is that 1) we clearly experience the difference between our narrative experience and our direct experience and 2) we get to repeatedly experience what it feels like to move from being lost in narrative experience to being attentive to direct experience. What we're doing, essentially, is training our capacity to easily move by choice between one type of experience to the other. Basically, to know where we are and how we got there..
I'm sure you'll find this kind of meditation quite relaxing as well as easy to do. And also quite effective. After a few sessions, don't be surprised if you find yourself experiencing the world in a whole new and very refreshing way!
Go ahead and try it now...
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