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Day three – control

How long should you meditate?

If you’ve been setting a timer for a few minutes and it seems like forever before the timer goes off, you could try reducing the length of your meditation session.

If you’ve been setting a timer for a few minutes and when it goes off you feel a little disappointed, because you’d like to sit there longer, then it’s worth increasing the amount of time you meditate.

Even if you’re not using a timer, you’ll know when it’s time to open your eyes again.

The meditation instructions below for day three raise the issue of control. On day one and two you were just letting your mind do whatever it wanted. On day three you will attempt to control your mind, by trying to bring it back into the present moment.

We are familiar with having control over our surroundings and can easily presume we should have the same level of control when we close our eyes.

You can always choose what you do with your body at any moment. Stand up, sit down, walk here or walk there. To move your body, you use force or effort in the direction you want it to go.

However, the emotions you feel while you move your body are irrelevant. If you want sweet smelling flowers next to you, you can choose to make this happen. If there’s a piece of rubbish on the floor nearby, you can choose to remove it from your presence. The emotions you feel while picking or buying the flowers or collecting and removing the rubbish from the floor have no impact on the outcome. If you’re feeling sad, you can pick flowers and collect rubbish off the floor. If you’re feeling happy, you can pick flowers and collect rubbish off the floor.

You have had this control over your surroundings, independent of your thoughts and feelings while exercising that control, ever since early childhood. An assumption we can quickly make when we close our eyes is that we will have a similar amount of control over the activity of our mind.

We assume that by making a significant effort or being forceful we will be able to direct our thoughts where we want them to go, i.e. back to the present moment or toward a meditation object.

Let’s say you’re standing in front of your fridge and you want to close the fridge door before any more cold air escapes.

How will you close the fridge?

What technique will you use?

Simple, you’ll push on the fridge door with your hand in the direction you want the fridge door to go. If you were to try using your emotions or intention to close the fridge door instead of using physical force, how effective do you think you would be?

The answer is obvious; your emotions and intention are going to have no effect on the fridge door. To close it, you must use force in the correct direction.

When we try to change something in our mind while meditating, these rules about control are reversed. Using any type of force or effort to bring your mind from the past or future back into the present moment isn’t going to work.

Instead, it’s more useful to use a small amount of kindness or gentlness when attempting to bring your mind back to the present moment.

Daily exercise:

Sit in a comfortable upright position on a chair or cushion on the ground with your hands resting comfortably on your lap.

After setting the timer, close your eyes and let your thoughts do as they wish. While you sit with your eyes closed, notice whether your thoughts and self-talk are about the past, present, or future. If your thoughts or self-talk are already about the present moment, let them continue on as they are.

However, if you observe a thought or self-talk about the past or the future, attempt to gently bring your awareness back to the present moment. Bringing your mind back into the present moment means allowing your awareness to look at anything you can observe through your five senses right now with your eyes closed. You can observe all the different sensations coming from your body, or listen to the different sounds coming in through your ears, as it’s rare to experience absolute silence.

Allow yourself to talk internally as much as you want, so long as it relates to something you’re experiencing in the present moment.