I often think about what it means to be a responsible human. I’ve had my fair share of moments in my life where I have lacked responsibility in a variety of ways. To me, responsibility means the ‘ability to respond.’ Whenever we respond out of habit we are not actually being responsible we are being reactive. Research shows that 95% of our thoughts are the same thoughts and thinking patterns we had the day before, and about 77% of those repetitive thoughts are negative in nature. If this is the case, how can we then switch from auto-response to a more creative and progressive response? You guessed it, meditation!
One aspect of meditation that is wildly misunderstood is our ideas surrounding thought experienced during our meditation. The proverbial complaint is something along the lines of, “I just can’t stop my mind from thinking”. The good news is, you’re not supposed to. The ability to command the mind into stillness or thoughtlessness is the number one meditation myth I have to correct with all of my students, and even if this is understood, it’s usually only understood as a concept. There remains a lingering part of us which stubbornly believes the mind is supposed to cease thinking altogether. So if getting the mind to stop thinking isn’t the purpose of meditation, then what is?
The purpose of meditation is to make direct contact with our essence, which is experienced as a depth of being, or pure awareness, and is powerful in nature. Just as the mind’s nature is to think, its essence is actually both silence and stillness. You can liken this to water. Water’s nature is to move, but its essence is to be still. Water is only mobile if there is something disturbing it such as a current (gravity), movement from an animal or boat, wind pushing it along, or some other form of energy. If you were to put water in a glass container which was completely sealed off from outside disturbances, what would happen? It would remain still. So the real question is, what prevents us from having a daily experience of our essence as both silence and stillness? The answer is stress.
Stress is confused with the daily demands of emails, work load, city traffic, and various types of relationships, to name a few. But these aren’t actually stress even though they can feel stressful at times, they are demands. Demands are any given task that needs to be completed in a day, and this requires a certain amount of attention and energy to be able to complete the task at hand. Stress is experienced as an energy-in-motion and is nothing more than hormones and chemicals, but it’s important to note that these hormones and chemicals are designed to save you when your survival is being compromised. I think we can all agree that your survival isn’t truly being compromised with your stack of emails, your high pressure boss, or your in-laws. However, with all of this said, the feeling of stress is real and can be very debilitating. When our body is under stress, it is influenced by an intoxicating cocktail of hormones and chemicals that are keeping you tired, sick, less productive and sharp, and feeling lacklustre. This is the very thing that influences the cursive busyness of thought.
All thought, whether it is an old reoccurring thought or a new innovative thought, comes from our essence of silence and stillness, just as all of water’s movement, no matter how small the ripple or powerful the wave, arises from the water first being still. When our body is operating from an inner pharmacy of heightened stress hormones and chemicals, this causes the mind to be more buoyant and thought filled. When there is less stress in the body’s physiology, the resulting experience is one of deep calm and inner wakefulness. Each time you sit down to meditate with your mantra, the mind is brought back to its source, stillness and silence. The more you experience this state, the more this silence and stillness becomes the backdrop of your experience as you move through your day, which is a powerful place to exist from giving rise to clarity, creative problem solving, intuition, productivity and enhanced performance capabilities, as well as an inner feeling of peace and happiness. This backdrop of silence and stillness that, believe it or not, exists within all of us, gives you access to your ability to respond or your response—ability.
True response, is a response that is based on what’s needed in any given moment. True response can’t really be speculated or thought through, it must be felt into, lived and experienced moment-to-moment. Meditation allows us to tap into this vast reservoir of calm within and pull out a creative solution that is innovative and fresh, opposed to the same old reactionary patterns that are based on memory and fear from stress keeping the mind buoyant, active and thought-filled. Always ask yourself ‘what’s needed?’ and when you find yourself responding based on need opposed to out of habit or preference, this is when we can begin to consider ourselves as responsible humans.
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Tips for Positive Response
01 : Twice daily Vedic Meditation, 20-minutes each sit
02 : When confronted in a challenging situation stop and take a deep breath in and sigh out before responding
03 : Always ask yourself, “what’s needed in this moment?” and then have the courage to follow through
04 : Create new patterns for response by writing down on the left side of your journal the reactionary response you behaved with. On the opposite side of the page (right side), write down the new response in how you would have liked to behave in that particular moment. Be specific here. Once the new response has been written down draw a big “X” through the reactionary response and then re-read your positive response. Upon re-reading, take a brief minute or two to close your eyes and visualize how you would have wanted to respond exactly as you wrote down on the right side. Note how this new response would feel in your body. This is very powerful for interrupting the brain and creating new neural pathways. Extra points if you visualize the positive behavioural response post-meditation!
Written by Caryn Kilback, founder of Instill Meditation
Vedic Meditation Teacher, Ayurvedic Practitioner, EYT-500, Energy Medicine Yoga Level I & II
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