Here is a Guest Blog from Anthony Peters from Wise Monkey Training. www.wisemonkeytraining.co.uk.
Becoming friends with your inner enemy
I recall having a workout at the gym when I noticed, as soon as my physical effort increased slightly, my mind started to say things like: "You can stop now" or "That'll do for today, you can try harder tomorrow" The more I tried to ignore and push the thoughts away the more compelling they became, to the point where every second during the end of an exercise became a battle of will.
After the gym session I treated myself to a few minutes in the steam room and Jacuzzi. No sooner as the steam began to raise my temperature there was my mind once again: "That'll do, it's getting too hot now. Leave. Walk out that door. Quick! Get out!" The harder I tried to push the thoughts out of my mind the hard it became to ignore them and relax. After a very short while I gave in and moved into the Jacuzzi. This time my mind became bored, much like a child with nothing to occupy and entertain it yet again, my leisure and relaxation time became a mental endurance test.
For many, if not all people starting out in meditation practise this type of mental wrestling can be a common challenge. As soon as the meditation practise begins to feel a little tough going, your mind seizes the opportunity and tries to convince you to give up transforming your meditation practise into a battle of will rather than a peace inducing experience.
Comparative to an undisciplined child, after a life of unchecked autonomy your mind does not like being told to quiet down and behave. When starting out, your mind seems to actively attempt to distract you during meditation and can even have a tantrum making you feel frustrated or annoyed at your perceived inability to meditate.
To help overcome this child-like mind whilst meditating you should become friends with it. Invite it inside to join you in meditation. Investigate it with intrigue and a fascination in relation to your internal world. Where is this voice within your body? Is it in your head? Where in your head is it?
At the back? At the front? Equally, if you feel annoyed, bored or frustrated during meditation, gently and with love, welcome those feelings inside you.
Become interested in the feelings and where they reside within your body.
By welcoming in the thoughts and feelings during your meditation practise, you are avoiding the common mistake of attempting to push them away. The very nature of pushing your thoughts and feelings away is to make them more 'sticky' and add fuel to more thought. Instead, welcome them with open arms and open heart like a long lost loved one.
Similarly, by investigating all feelings and emotions in relation to your body during a meditation practise your mind is brought inwards rather than being allowed to run outside of the present moment. Through mindful investigation of your inner world during meditation you are also likely to find that emotions, thoughts and physical feelings will either disappear or you will recognize how insignificantly small they are and can not possibly have any control over your behaviour.
Prof. Barbara Fredrickson et al. from the University of North Carolina researched how much meditation is needed to feel the benefits. From her studies, Prof. Fredrickson concluded that the positive emotional benefits of meditation are not typically noticed before three-weeks of regular practise.
However, after this initial 'settling down' period, positive emotions, levels of happiness and well-being are increased three-fold. That is to say, the same amount of meditation will provide three times as much noticeable benefits when compared to the previous three-weeks.
Therefore, when starting out, the first three weeks can be the most challenging so practise becoming good friends with your thoughts and feelings during this time; invite them inside, get to know them with love and kindness because they are not your enemy and in fact, they will teach you a great deal.