I was out in the woods today, hiking with my dogs. I only saw one other group of hikers in over an hour and a half. Despite being out in the woods, undistracted, intent on being in the moment, during the entire hike I kept battling my mind’s tendency to dwell on a handful of things I’m anxious about.
I would breathe in, breathe out, focus on the sounds of the woods, watch where I placed each step, watch each dog at the end of its leash. Just focus on the world around me in that moment. But then, within minutes or seconds, I’d catch myself carried away on a runaway train of thought about some anxiety-inducing conundrum or another: whether or not to coach youth baseball this Spring, replaying a contentious situation I’m wading through at work, worrying about the sleep I’ll lose when we welcome a new baby into the family in just a couple of weeks (or really, any day now), mentally cataloguing the ever growing list of professional responsibilities I’m trying to juggle, and any number of other odds and ends.
This is the purpose of meditation as I see it: to notice what your mind is like and to stop identifying with thoughts. You aren’t your thoughts and they really aren’t yours, you are simply the space where thoughts flit in and out of existence.
My Current (Non)Practice
I haven’t practiced mindfulness on a consistent basis for several months. I did practice consistently from May-August, more or less. Eventually I had a hard time putting my finger on what I was getting out of it and stopped practicing.
I still practice from time-to-time, when the idea pops into my mind (which is kind of hilarious). Lately, I’ve begun to think that it might be time to work it back into my routine. It’s funny, now that I’m not practicing mindfulness on a routine basis, I think I see more clearly what it was doing for me back when I was practicing consistently.
Disclaimers and Acknowledgements
I’m no expert, not by a long shot. So when I say “The Purpose of Meditation” let it be clear that I’m just sharing my understanding or opinion.
What little I do know about meditation I credit to Sam Harris’ book Waking Up, Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright, and the Waking Up app.