Inverted Meditation: Fill Your Mind
Every morning, I spend a straight half hour with my thoughts. I’m aware that I’m supposed to be clearing my mind while I’m on the yoga mat. The nice woman on the screen* tells me to clear my mind; empty it. Just concentrate on my breathing. That is very hard to do. I am a thinky sort of person. I like thinking. Telling me to clear my mind is like telling me to eat non-vegetarian food. It’s not as if I can’t, per se. But I don’t eat animals so I would likely vomit if I tried to eat meat… or not think…
I would have a brain vomit.
I’ve stopped fighting my brain’s tendency to run through thoughts, and I’ve instead embraced my yoga time as a thinking time. I know that makes me a bad yogi. I mean, the whole point of yoga is to train your body so you can spend long periods of time meditating. The fact that I can’t even clear my mind while I do yoga doesn’t bode well.
In the same way that I go through various physical poses during yoga, I alter between types of thinking based on where I am in the routine. During the opening stretches, I’m usually thinking about my current life: things I must do, things worrying me, things that will happen that day. It’s like a little warm-up routine for my brain. I mean, yes, it stretches my mind a little to wrap itself around all my fears so early in the morning, but it’s a good stretch; that yummy sort of pain as the brain goes into a pose that feels completely familiar.
In the middle of the routine, when we’re doing things like “camel,” I’m thinking through whatever scene I’m writing in the moment. I’m mentally playing around with characters and trying out bits of conversation. And finally, when the routine switches to the stillness of gasp-inducing stretches such as “folded pigeon,” I move into daydreaming. Which is like nightdreaming. Except I’m awake. Or I take someone else’s characters and act out a little piece of mental fan fiction.
So a half hour of thinkiness.
Josh told me about an article over the weekend that found that people would rather administer electrical shocks to themselves than sit alone with their thoughts. One of the authors of the study is Daniel Gilbert who wrote Stumbling on Happiness. i09 reported on the study, and I love this quote: “But what is striking is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 min was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.”
Granted, I am doing something when I am thinking through yoga, but I also sit and do inverted meditation — that’s what I call when I sit still and instead of emptying my mind, I fill my mind — several times every day. Like just sitting on the sofa and staring at the cushion and thinking. I don’t think I’d opt for the shock. I mean, I really don’t like shocks. I really do like thinking.
Even when I’m thinking about things I don’t like to think about.
Because I don’t look at thinking as doing nothing. I mean, thinking is thinking. It’s something. Nothingness would be real meditation: getting to a state of not thinking and not doing. That would probably drive me mad. But thinking; that’s productive. Even unproductive thought (like circling the same fear for the third time) feels productive.
Do you mind being alone with your thoughts? Would you always opt to do something rather than nothing?
* An unrelated side note: I love the Yoga Studio app even more now with the new update because I can upload my yoga music to play underneath the woman’s breathy voice. This app has changed my life.