I’ve tried meditation but I can’t stop thinking. Am I doing it wrong?
The idea that you have to stop thinking in order to meditate is misleading. It is true that in the highest spiritual states normal thinking modes are suspended, but for most people this is a long way off. But the way to achieve this state is not by trying to stop thought.
You can meditate quite successfully by developing your concentration through regular practice. Do not try to think of ‘nothing’ or try to stop the thought process. This will only frustrate you. The mind needs something to focus on. This is where the Mantra comes in. Just focus on mentally repeating your Mantra. When other thoughts or feelings distract you, as soon as you become aware of that, simply direct your attention back to the Mantra. Then if your mind wanders again, as soon as you notice, just direct your attention back to the Mantra. It’s a bit like training a dog: it takes repetition and patience.
So what exactly is meditation?
Meditation is the process of directing your attention to the source of consciousness within you. It is a kind of reflection on your own self-awareness. This can lead to the discovery that pure consciousness has no boundary.
The ultimate goal of meditation is more than just ‘mindfulness’ or ‘being in the now’. Enlightenment, Ananda, Self-Realization, Oneness with God, a state of Grace, all these attempts to name or describe the goal of meditation fall far short, inevitably, because the goal of meditation is to transcend the mind and experience directly the Oneness of the Universe – something beyond thought or imagination, and certainly beyond words.
This is often termed, Self-Realization. Here the capitalized ‘Self’ signifies that we are talking about something other than the regular everyday ‘self’ as we experience it. It refers to what is variously called the Higher Self, the Supreme Consciousness, God, Allah etc. What Albert Einstein referred to as ‘the Supreme Intelligence’. Hence the word, ‘yoga’, meaning union of the individual self and the cosmic Self.
In other words, the goal of meditation is to realize that your inner consciousness and infinite consciousness are the same.
Now I know that sounds kind of hard. Or perhaps even unlikely or impossible, or perhaps you are unsure that God exists. Nevertheless, the yogis who first developed meditation in ancient India more than 7000 years ago (to get a little perspective on this, Buddha lived about 2500 years ago) were very clear that this is the ultimate purpose of spiritual meditation. They called this Dhyana, which is one of the eight limbs of Astaunga Yoga.
So what should we focus on in meditation? If you are trying to achieve anything, most people will advise you to focus on your goal. And the goal of meditation is, as stated above, bliss or infinite love – the experience of Cosmic Consciousness or Oneness.
This is why the meaning of the Mantra is very important. It should embody the goal – the idea of oneness and infinite peace and love. If you think about that for 10,000 hours or so, you’ll begin to feel really different, believe me!
“Meditation helps you understand who you are, learn to love yourself and learn to see yourself in everyone.” -Dada Nabhaniilananda
Infinite Consciousness is a mind-expanding idea, but it can sometimes seem too abstract. Try this. Remember that all the love, peace and happiness you’ve ever felt comes from within you. Your object in meditation is to connect with the source of the feelings that give our lives meaning. You are not meditating on anything other than your own innermost Self.