If like me, you believe that your body and your mind are not the same, but two different parts of you that are tightly connected, then you might connect to this insight that changed my practice.
For the first year and a half when I began practice, I believed that meditation was a process to help relax, calm and still my mind. Similar to how my body feels relaxed after a massage, meditation should be like taking my mind to a spa.
The disappointing reality is that my mind rarely felt like it was at a spa. So many thoughts, emotions and ideas, constantly flowing. My mind was clearly working, not relaxing. And choosing to sit and meditate every morning, I became more aware of how unrelaxed my mind was, and as a result, discouraged.
And then everything changed.
After about 500 days of meditating every morning, experience taught me that meditation is not a process to relax my mind. Meditation is a process to strengthen my mind.
When I take my body to the gym, for a run or a swim (okay, the reality is I do none of those, mainly yoga, but let’s go with it), the body is working, not relaxing. While exercising the body, more blood is sent to the muscles that are working to deliver additional oxygen and nutrients. Tiny tears form in the muscles, which help them become stronger as they heal. It’s an active process to strengthen the body.
When practicing meditation, tiny mental agitations form about the topics, events or people present in life. Attention is then delivered to these topics, which is the flood of thoughts I experience while sitting. Meditation gives my mind the space to process these thoughts. It is working, not relaxing. By letting these thoughts flow during meditation, the mind begins to make sense of them. This is an active process to heal and strengthen the mind.
This insight changed my expectations of the experience I have while meditating. Strengthening the mind is work. And it will not feel relaxing or calming during the process. After the mind has had the space to process my reality, it is able to then relax, which happens over time.
Meditation is work that I will gladly continue to do for the long-term health of my mind.