Kindling #7: A cat and reframing your idea of meditation


It’s now Saturday morning, around seven o’clock and the sun has been up for about two hours, and so have I.

I’m talking about living closer to your heart, and that journey starts with being present in the Here and Now and I know how hard that is in today’s society, everything runs in hundred and twenty miles per hour and there’s always something screaming for your attention. And if you get a quiet moment you’ll start to fiddle with your phone or you’ll turn on the TV and watch some brain-dead show.

But in order to live close to your heart, you know, to be part of making this world more inclusive and sustainable is about learning to observe yourself, your thoughts, and the world around you with full attention, and the tool for doing so is meditation, and maybe you get sort of a gut instinct of “oh meditation no no no” but don’t worry about it, first of all meditation is one of those things that most people is very happy that other people are doing but can’t get around to do it themselves.

I think one reason is that’s this big misconception about meditation, that it’s about the empty mind, and if you sit down and try, try to empty your mind, you will within milliseconds find out that it’s impossible and that puts a lot of people off, myself included in the beginning.

But then I worked with a Buddhist priest, a teacher, Michael, for about two years on Buddhism and exploring that world more and also sitting in meditation on a regular basis, and I think he explained it in a very nice way and that has resonated with me, so I thought I’d share that little mind a trick to help you get into a meditation practice and then I’ll also talk about what does a meditation practice actually mean, it doesn’t have to mean sitting on a cushion for an hour staring into a white wall,.

So meditation is NOT about emptying your mind, about not having any thoughts, meditation is about learning how to focus your thoughts, and the way Michael described it was that imagine you are on a forest road you’re driving with forest on each side so you can’t really see into the bushes and then suddenly there’s a cat crossing the road, what you do then is that you recognise that there’s a cat, you may say that that’s a nice beautiful cat, you may slow down a little to let it pass but then you take your eyes and mind back to the road and continue your journey.

With meditation it’s the same thing, when you sit and try to focus your mind on breathing for example or an object there’ll be a cat, a thought, showing up in your mind, what you do then is that you recognise that thought is there, you recognise “Yes I need to do the dishes after I’m done here” but then you let that thought go and go back to focusing on your breathing or on the object that you’ve chosen to meditate on.

What you DON’T do is to, in your car, follow that cat into the forest and see where it leads you, no, as soon as you recognise that the cat is there you let it pass the road safely then you take your mind back, your eyes back to the road, and your mind back to the object of the focus for your meditation, if this analogy makes sense.

I don’t think I give it justice, so sorry for that Michael, but that has really helped me to rethink my approach to meditation because I also started with this idea that it’s about emptying your mind and I quickly realised how impossible that is and then I blamed myself for being so crap at this.

So that’s not the thing, it’s about learning how to focus your mind, and Michael has been a Buddhist priest for, I mean practicing Buddhism for 30 years, and maybe a priest for 15 or so and he says that he has these cats crossing his mind all the time but with practice he’s adding one millisecond between each interrupting thought for every year so if I can maybe focus my mind for 10 milliseconds Michael with all this training maybe we can do it for 20, 30 milliseconds, so the practice is about bringing your mind back, bringing your mind back, recognise the thought, let it be and bring your mind back.

Then it’s about a regular meditation practice, and I have periods where I do this very regularly, twice a day 20 minutes, for a couple of weeks and then comes a time, typically that time when I need it the most, when I’m stressed out, that I don’t do anything at all, but even in those periods when I don’t do any sort of formal sitting down at all I do try to take small timeouts such as this.

You know I wake up early so I get out in the forest, and I don’t know if you can see how beautiful it is here, you can hear the birds in the background, so I come out here just sit down for a while and listen to the birds or look at the trees, I try to focus my mind on the birdsong or tree or flower or the way the sun is shining and reflecting in the nature here.

Just to hold that thought and explore what’s going on, what’s the melody of the song, what’s the colors and the patterns of the flower, how does the shade change as the sun moves behind the trees, just try to hold my mind focusing on that, when the cat comes to cross the road I recognise it, it’s there and then I go back and try to focus on the object of meditation.

And if you don’t have a forest around, something that I really recommend you to do is to explore your surroundings early morning. I’d love to go into Old Town square in Prague like 5, 6 o’clock in the morning, when it’s early the morning so that the party people have gone home but it’s so early that the morning rush hasn’t started yet.

The Old Town square or the center of Prague at that time of the day is absolutely amazing, there’s so much to look at and I sit there in the middle of the square for a while and just look at the buildings and take in what’s going on, highly recommended, so do that in your surroundings as well, if you can’t get out in the forest, or do both.

Keep in mind, meditation is critical for your own development for learning how to live in the Here and Now, and meditation is not about emptying your mind, is about learning how to focus your mind, and meditation doesn’t have to be sitting down on a cushion staring into a wall, meditation is to be with yourself, learning how to focus your mind on an object whatever that is.

I hope that’s helpful! Please share your thoughts on meditation, I know that it’s one of those things that people love that other people do but it’s hard to get around to yourself so in the comments below: What do you think about meditation? Do you have a practice? If not, what’s holding you back?

Talk to you soon again! Ciao!

Kindlings are my way of keeping myself accountable for breathing the fire that’s in my soul and I hope to inspire others to do the same in the process.

The word kindling means a small and dry, easily flammable material to help a fire get going. Once the kindling is burning, it can ignite the larger pieces of wood in your fire.

That’s is what aspire to do – Help you start your fire so you experience the warmth of your soul and feel inspired to keep feeding the fire that’s in your soul. 

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