As I have always emphasized, meditation is just a tool that helps clear your mind, nothing more and nothing less. If you hear someone says that meditation is something magical, don’t believe that. Yet, being a tool that clear your mind already makes it a very useful and powerful thing. But what does something as simple as meditation make your mind more clear? What really happens during meditation? Let’s find out now.
Meditation is About Assigning a Part Time Job to Your Mind
Let’s begin with clarify the big idea about meditation. The big idea is very simple indeed. Since our mind is always working and it is not possible to force it to stop thinking and spinning, we have to find a way to make it close to stopping in order to let it rest. The idea is that if we can let our mind rest a little bit, our mind will become more clear. It is like when you reset your computer, it runs faster. Or if you have a bruised knee, you need to rest it so it can work effectively and smoothly again. So, what is the way to make our mind as close to stopping as possible? The answer is to assign a very simple task to our mind to do so that instead of working a full time job (thinking intensely), our mind can now have a part time job (doing the small task we assign to our mind). And that process of making our mind work on a simple task is what we call “meditation”.
The Two Common Types of Meditation
Breath meditation and mantra meditation are the two most common types of meditation. For breath meditation, the small task we try to make our mind to work on is to simply observe the breathing in and breathing out action of our breath. For mantra meditation, the task is to use our mind to repeatedly read a mantra. A mantra is simply a usually two-syllable meaningless word like “so-hum” although it can also be a single-syllable word or a multiple-syllable word. The big idea behind both methods is the same.
The Two Modes During Meditation
There are generally two modes that you would experience during meditation. I like to call them the awake mode and half-asleep modes so that they can be easily understood. If you meditate properly, you would find yourself consistently switching between the two modes.
The Awake Mode of Meditation
The awake mode can be very easily understood. Let’s use mantra meditation for illustrating this example. When you start meditating, you would want to sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Then you start reading the mantra “so-hum” repeatedly in your mind, you are totally aware of yourself reading the mantra. At this stage, you are in the awake mode. That’s the mode when you notice that you are doing the small task, in this case, reading the mantra repeatedly. In the case of breath meditation, in the awake mode, you can notice yourself observing the breathing in and breathing out of your breath.
The Half-Asleep Mode of Meditation
Let’s continue the mantra meditation example. After a few minutes of repeatedly reading the mantra, you will enter the stage when there are thoughts or ideas come to your mind and you forget to continue to repeat your mantra. This is the half-asleep mode. The thoughts that come to your mind make you feel like you are dreaming. But you are certainly not sleeping since you can actually see and remember your thoughts with just a little bit of conscious.
What is Actually Happening When Thoughts Come into Your Mind
When thoughts come into your mind during meditation, what actually is happening is that there are ideas or thoughts that are stored in your subconscious mind flowing into your conscious mind. Our subconscious mind is a very interesting thing. It can pick up or come up with thoughts and ideas without us knowing it. Some of these ideas are bright while some are silly. When we are in the half-asleep mode of meditation, we are building a bridge between our conscious mind and our subconscious mind. As a result, we can see some thoughts that we haven’t thought of before consciously. At this point of meditation, we are neither conscious nor subconscious.
What To Do When These Thoughts Flow into Your Conscious Mind
Ideally, when these ideas or thoughts flow into your conscious mind from your subconscious mind during meditation, you should not pay too much attention to those ideas, whether they are bright or silly ideas, and just let them pass by. Assume that if they are bright ideas, you will remember them after meditation anyway. Your goal is to clear your mind and not to find out what your subconscious mind is working on. Therefore, just let the thoughts pass by and you should also start repeating your mantra again and go back to the awake mode. Of course you will go back to the half-asleep mode again probably a few minutes later.
The Alternative Approach of Handling the Thoughts that Flow in
The approach of not paying much attention to the thoughts that flow in during meditation is considered to be the common approach and that’s the approach I use too. It makes a lot of sense since the biggest goal, for me the only goal, of meditation is to clear the mind. On the other hand, some people like to chew on the thoughts that come in. In other words, when the ideas or thoughts that flow into the conscious mind from the subconscious mind seem brilliant, some people would choose to think deep about the idea before they actually start reading the mantra again and go back into the awake mode. I guess that may work for those people who think meditation is a half-mind-clearing tool and a half-problem-solving tool. Yet, from my experience, I find it much more effective to meditate the common way. I believe in the concept of sharpening the saw before cutting the tree. In the case of meditation, I believe in the idea of clearing my mind before solving problems.