Silence through Attention
2 years ago
I have been trying to meditate for some years. Recently, I am very pleased with my progress and the benefits I feel.
I have decided for myself that meditation is a practice aimed at quieting - and eventually silencing - the mind. Some great and famous people disagree but that is not the point. For me, meditation is a practice aimed at internal silence.
I found it really difficult at first. I could not be quiet enough and sustained practice did not bring noticeable results. Two years ago, I decided I really had to take off the golves and get serious. To my dismay, I could not keep my attention on anything for more than two minutes at best, and my average was much lower. I found it so difficult, that I stopped wanting to even practice.
Then I hit on a way to increase my willpower. Exercise everyday. Not much but just a bit. No exceptions. After a few weeks of that, I re-started my meditation practice. Only for five minutes a day. Although I did not see much change, there was one big change - I could keep going at five minutes a day. I decided that success at being quiet was not success. Success was now defined as keeping trying.
Before long this had changed to ten minutes of meditation a day. Then like all things, the texture of my practice began to change. I began to experiment with different ways to meditate. My target is silence, so I started by just stopping thinking. This was not very effective, but I also remembered that replacing is better than cold turkey.
This was the trick
Instead of letting my attention go to my thoughts, I focused it on my perceptions - my sight or hearing. This was the trick. I discovered I could focus my attention. Since it was not focused on thoughts, the thoughts naturally grew weaker, less intense, frequently disappearing completely.
Replacement - replace your thoughts with your sights. Then it is a bit easier to stay on target and very easy to check if you are on target. and to get back on target when you wander.
I think it might be like trying to quit smoking (not personal experience). Replace the smoking habit with another new habit or you will find you only stop smoking for s while and then start again later.
I have found a dramatic decrease in the intensity of my daily thoughts as a direct result of this change. My stress was lower, and I stopped worrying. I no longer think about things that are not present - with notable exceptions that I call 'random intruding thoughts'. My desires are less and easy to curb. (I don't want things like I used to - and this is not a 'trying' thing.). I can let go of things much more easily now. Oddly enough, things like the heat also seem to bother me less and less. When I catch a cold, it doesn't seem important anymore. And I rarely stop to indulge in speculating about what other people think about myself. I'm no longer very interested in that.