Stepping Out of Our Unproductive Patterns with Meditation
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”—Albert Einstein
This quote from Albert Einstein sums up the practice of meditation. We often get trapped on a merry-go-round of emotional or mental patterns. How do we use our mind and awareness to lift us out of our patterns?
It’s a challenge that I face every morning. I usually make some tea before I meditate, stretch a little bit, then I go sit down where I practice meditation. As soon as I sit down, I start to think about all the things I am going to have to do that day. My mind automatically goes to thinking, projecting ahead, looking at issues and thinking of different approaches to challenges I face. There are times when 10-15 minutes go by and, although my intention was to practice concentration and meditation, I realize I have just been lost in thoughts. I am just going around and around in the same thinking patterns.
I Need to do Something Different
That’s when I realize I need to do something different. I need to do something other than focus on my own mind in order to pull me out of the deluge of thoughts. That is when I pick up a book of my teacher’s writings and start to read poems that he wrote. My teacher embarked on a project to write 77,000 poems and he passed away just as he had finished 50,000 in this series. They are short aphorisms or phrases that have a lot of content to them. They are nice strong statements about life challenges, spirituality, meditation, inner growth, the mind and the heart. I start to read those and after several of the poems I start to get out of my patterns and lift up to a higher dimension. Once I’m there, then I can begin my meditation.
Another technique I use is singing. I either sing out load or mentally. At musical meditation each week we teach and practice short songs and mantras that are great for meditation.
Another thing I often do if I find I am just drifting around in thought is a candle meditation. I have a candle that I light when I meditate and if I realize I am just going around and around in thought, I will hold my eyes on the candle. This is a really effective way to calm the mind and halt thinking. Our eyes automatically move as we think, but if you hold your eyes still, it’s a way to physically hold your mind. By concentrating on one thing it forces my mind to be still. Then I chant OM out loud so I can hear myself and bring my mind fully into the practice.
Since we all have the same basic mental structure, I believe that everyone has to deal with something akin to my own difficulties in quieting the mind. Wherever you are sitting and practicing your meditation, be sure that you have a nice candle or flower that you can use for visual concentration. It also is beneficial to read the writings from an illumined teacher so you can concentrate on writings that are sure to inspire and uplift your awareness. I have practiced meditation for over 35 years, yet still daily face challenges with my mind racing. The difference between 35 years ago and now is that I now know I can pull out of those mental patterns, whereas 35 years ago I had no idea that there was a way out of my own thought patterns.
Rising out of Your Patterns
Rising out of your patterns can also mean opening your heart or going into deeper transformative emotions such as compassion, gratitude and unconditional love.
In the practice of meditation it is important to have enough humility to reach out for that thread or lifeline that can lift you up: whether it’s a mantra, beautiful music, a candle, or a flower. It’s imperative to realize that the same state of mind you’re in is not the state of mind that can move to a higher consciousness. You have to do something or allow something to happen to your mind by focusing on the mantra or a phrase; or listening to music; and to that adding a level of intensity, as if your life depended on it.
Each time you move into that higher consciousness, assimilate the experience; impress it upon your awareness so you can remember what it feels like to be in an elevated mood. This will help you return there next time.