As a litigator, the lawyer had fueled his career by mobilizing a seething anger at the injustices done his clients. Energized by outrage, he was relentless in pursuing his cases, making his arguments with a fiery force, staying up long into the night researching and preparing. Often he’d lie awake much of the night fuming as he reviewed his clients’ predicament over and over and plotted legal strategy.
Then, on a vacation, he met a woman who taught meditation and asked her for instruction. To his surprise, she started by handing him a few raisins. She then led him through the steps in eating one of the raisins slowly and with full focus, savoring the richness of every moment in that process: the sensations as he lifted it into his mouth and chewed, the burst of flavors as he bit into it, the sounds of eating. He immersed himself in the fullness of his senses.
Then, as she instructed him, he brought that same full in-the-moment focus to the natural flow of his breath, letting go of any and all thoughts that floated through his mind. With her guidance he continued that meditation on his breath for the next fifteen minutes.
As he did so, the voices in his mind went quiet. “It was like flipping a switch into a Zen-like state,” he said. He liked it so much that he has made it a daily habit: “After I’m done, I feel really calm— I like that a lot.”
…while the mind wanders, our sensory systems shut down, and, conversely, while we focus on the here and now, the neural circuits for mind wandering go dim. At the neural level mind wandering and perceptual awareness tend to inhibit each other: internal focus on our train of thought tunes out the senses, while being rapt in the beauty of a sunset quiets the mind. This tune-out can be total, as when we get utterly lost in what we’re doing.
It’s been a blessing. Truly.
First, a quote from 8 Minute Meditation:
The notion that meditation will, at some point, cause the complete cessation of thinking is what I call “The Great Meditation Misconception.” It’s a misbelief held by almost every beginning meditator— and plenty of advanced ones, too. Allow me to say this again: There is no way you will ever stop your mind from thinking. That is its job: to think, analyze, criticize, and judge— 365/ 24/ 7.
You have already heard me say that in 8 Minute Meditation, our goal is not to suppress thinking but surpass it.
If any of this sounds like it echoes your experience I highly recommend Stress-Proof Your Brain which you can find at soundstrue.com (a website that’s essentially the Audible of meditation / mindfulness world).
Hope this helps,