Meditation for Beginners January 24 2009

Throughout each stage of our lives, we all experience habitual mental patterns, as well as our own versions of trauma. Notice I used the word ‘own’ (we will come back to this in a moment). After each experience, our miniature super computers store them as memories to be used and compared, at a later time, to new experiences. In the practice of yoga, we refer to these memories as samskaras, or imprints upon either the conscious or subconscious. While some experiences are extremely useful and even necessary, others may be harmful and even prevent us from recognizing a truly new experience or opportunity. If we are constantly comparing a situation to a past experience, are we in the present?

One of the most effective ways to address habitual mental patterns and break free of them involves the mindful meditation of witnessing the thoughts. Taking just a few minutes out of each day to simply watch or ‘witness’ the thoughts as they enter the mind (without passing judgment) allows us to recognize habitual mental patterns and slowly dissolve them. We no longer have a need to ‘own’ them when they can no longer serve us. It is ‘owning’ them that sets them deeper into the subconscious.

This method is also the quickest way to quiet the mind when we cannot sleep, are stressed, or are trying to quiet the mind for meditation. The trick is not to follow the thoughts you are ‘witnessing’ and let the mind wander. In your mind’s eye, just sit back and watch them as if you were sitting on your lawn, watching the traffic go by. Eventually, your self awareness of unnecessary patterns will begin to creep up on you outside of your practice. With recognition of these patterns, they will gently fall away.