Reconstruction Practice: Meditation and the Racing Mind

I had not meditated for weeks so I decided to sit down and do a 15 minute session.

Sitting down and meditating after weeks of not practicing is kind of like sitting down and going through weeks and weeks of bills and facing what you owe and what is past due. It is like pulling open your underwear drawer and finding it empty and having to face the Mt. Everest of Laundry that you have been pretending not to see.

I sat in my chair at my desk, put in my ear buds, set my meditation timer for 15 minutes, took a couple mindful deep breaths and “BANG!”. My mind was off and running.

How should I arrange my classroom? Where should I put the alphabet? I really need to put together a new alphabet for my phonics curriculum. The old one is very faded. The colors don’t match the room. They are too big so when I put them on the wall the kids can’t reach the top rows. But it will take so long to create those and laminate those. Maybe I can get one more year out of…..”

Then I came back to the present moment. Took a couple deep breaths. I am a teacher and I start back next Monday, but will start to go in this week to organize and plan. My mind kept returning to that overwhelming list of things I need to do for school. I was able to gain some separation and witness the racing of my mind. I remembered I am not my thoughts. I observed that my mind was very stressed about being ready for the beginning of school. As I recognized my mind’s stress about school my mind was able to calm down for a few moments.

“What should I have for lunch? Why don’t I have an eating plan? How bad does my health need to get before I will do something? I have been thinking about this for years yet I still don’t do it! What is wrong with…”

Then I gained some separation as my mind continued to race. I observed that my mind was very worried about my health and my lack of consistency and planning regarding my eating. My mind went on and on. Fearful. Hyper. Ranting. But as I listened to what my mind had to say and acknowledged it my mind started to calm down and put down the microphone.

One goal of meditation for me is to achieve a quiet state inside. There are times when that happens and it is very sweet. Another important goal is to become aware. First I must find my center….my conscious self. I experience my consciousness as being located in my cerebellum. At the back, bottom of my head.  I experience what might be called my ‘ego’, that constantly chattering, every vigilant, constantly evaluating and assessing part of my internal self, as being located in the cerebrum. Behind my forehead and in the middle top of my head. (I am referencing a side view of the brain to map out these locations). My emotions generally emanate from my heart, the center of my chest, although some emotions seem to come from the stomach area. Intense emotions like fear or anger seem to travel and expand and have the ability to hijack my thinking process if I am not mindful. Intense fear or anger can fill my entire body.

Michael Singer, in his book The Surrender Experiment, gifted me with the understanding that I am not my thoughts and feelings. I am the witness to my thoughts and feelings. Meditation helps me find my place as the witness and gain space to allow for observation of my thoughts and feelings and helps me to respond compassionately to myself and to thoughtfully act (or not act) on the thoughts and feelings.

The racing thoughts and the volatile feelings are not the problem. Allowing them to hijack your consciousness is when they become a problem. Some people call the racing mind the “Monkey Mind”. I don’t care for this pejorative term. Our thoughts and feelings are a vital function of our brain and being.  They simply need to be guided to their proper place within me. In meditation I find my center. My conscious self. When I take the seat of my soul I can now witness myself, become aware, respond to myself with compassionate wisdom, and then act with compassionate wisdom in the world around me.

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