Do I Have to Make My Mind Blank?

No, nor do you have to “empty your mind.” This is another big myth. There are moments of inner quiet, but thinking is a major part of meditation. You ride thoughts like surfers ride waves. The more you accept all thoughts, the more inner repose you will get.

The brain does a lot of sorting and housecleaning during meditation and is often tremendously busy. The more your mind wanders during meditation, the more able it is to pay attention after meditation, because it has done its tuning-up process.

Also, since you are relaxed during meditation, you learn to stay relaxed while thinking of things in your life that used to make you tense. You should expect your mind to be noisy part of the time in meditation. You won’t care very much, though, because you will still be very relaxed. After meditation is when your mind will be quieter. And because your mind is quiet, those little thoughts you need to know can catch up with you. Your intuition, your gut feelings, your strategic overview, your hunches will emerge with greater clarity.

Do I Have To Concentrate?

People do lots of concentration at work, so it would be redundant to concentrate during meditation. It would be a Busman’s Holiday. In meditation you learn how to do the opposite of concentration, you learn a kind of expansion of the scope of attention. You learn an all-inclusive kind of attention that excludes nothing, and therefore the needy and unknown parts of yourself can come into range. This is what leads to integration of the personality and coordination between mind and heart and body. Unlearning concentration is a big part of learning to meditate.

Do I Have To Slow Down?

When you are relaxed and attentive, time seems to open up, and there is the feeling of having more time. But you haven’t slowed down – there is just less mental noise, and you have a richer contact with the sensuous world.

Human reaction time is around a fifth of a second. If you see a herd of buffalo or cars racing by, you can recognize the situation and begin stepping out of the way in a fraction of a second. When someone is talking to you, you recognize individual sounds in a hundredth of a second, because recognition time is much shorter than reaction time. That means if you see a friend, you recognize her that quickly. Why would you want to slow down?

The truth behind the fantasy of slowing down is that meditation gives you more choice about your velocity: you can speed up or slow down as appropriate. Also, there is a synchronization of rhythms that happens during meditation that sometimes creates the feeling of there being more time in the day. Anyone can experience this whether they are mothers with their kids, athletes, drivers or musicians: when they are in their groove, they sometimes have the feeling that there’s a lot of time in a second. It comes about from heightened attentiveness.

So don’t think you have to put on the brakes in order to meditate, and during meditation forget about controlling your speed. While meditating, when a thought comes, you can identify what sort of thought it is earlier in the process of its development, because you are attentive. After meditation, there is typically a feeling of harmony, of moving through your day in synch with your inner rhythms. This creates the sense that there is more time in the day. You get to this experience by paying attention, not by trying to slow things down.

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