A little over a year ago I was excited to stumble upon a Groupon for an annual membership to Headspace. I had already been enjoying the free version for several months, and wanted my children to begin developing the skill and learn the benefits of meditating, so I was thrilled to find a great discount on the full membership! They have an ever-growing library of guided meditations, focused on topics such as anxiety, performance, sleep, competition, and more. They also offer insightful creative little videos that help make abstract concepts more concrete, making mediation understandable to even young children.
Each Headspace meditation starts with a nugget of wisdom that sets the tone for the meditation. One message I heard I often find myself pondering, is to notice when you get distracted while meditating, and then identify if it’s due to a thought or a feeling. I’m often distracted during meditation, so I’ve had lots of practice using this technique, but I have also begun to carry this thinking into life. If the chatter in my head starts to take a downward turn, I try to notice it immediately. I then think “Is this a thought I’m having or a feeling?” Usually, this becomes a circular argument similar to the chicken-egg conversation. It’s either, “I had a thought that evoked this feeling” or “I’m having this feeling that evoked a thought.” I’ve come to the conclusion it doesn’t really matter either way, but the simple act of going through this identification process distances my thoughts and feelings (the voice in my head) from who I really am, at the core….my soul. Thoughts and feelings lose their power because you realize you can either chase after them, like the traffic metaphor in this Headspace video, or you can let them go, and move on. When you have the power to let them go, they no longer have power over you. Instead of your thoughts and feelings controlling you, you are in the driver’s seat.
I’ve now refined my practice to Thought, Feeling, Choose. When I notice my mind is getting me down, I think “Is this a thought or a feeling?” and then regardless of the answer, I choose gratitude. Research shows gratitude is one of the best antidotes to many of the frightening features of the mind, so I follow up by thinking of that I’m grateful for, anything! When you are in a state of gratitude, it’s impossible to experience other thoughts and feelings simultaneously, which empowers you to let them go.
Although we weren’t the most consistent users, we made good use of our Headspace membership. It created a foundation for accessing stillness in the mind, and even though we have a long way to go to build our meditation muscles, this foundation strengthened our ability to reset our thinking to cultivate a sense of inner peace.