How Can You Tell When You’re Meditating?

There's an old man with a white beard with his eyes closed. He seems to be praying. A little girl is sitting next to her watching him.
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Often, even people who’ve been meditating for years will express a concern that perhaps they’re not doing it right.

After all, each of us has only our own experience of meditation, so there’s not any actual objective point of comparison. (Even if you’re hooked up to an EEG, different brains will show different results.) And while a quiet mind might sound absolutely fantastic, figuring out how to still the mind seems mysterious…even impossible.

What is the mind doing when it’s still?



Meditation Is a State of Two Minds

The conscious mind thinks thoughts. That’s its job. It craves change and constantly envisions plans for achieving goals to bring about those changes.

But the unconscious mind doesn’t care about those goals. It’s the gatekeeper that protects what already exists. Maintaining stability is its prime directive, even when stability is counterproductive to a goal of self-change that the conscious mind wants to achieve.

Take, for example, the popular lament, “I’ve been trying to lose that last 10 pounds for the past 10 years.” You want to lose the pounds, and you’ve moved mountains to lose them. Yet they remain. Despite the conscious mind’s best intention, the unconscious mind knows you to be the You Who Wants To Lose 10 Pounds. Until it gets onboard the You Who Are Losing 10 Pounds wagon, those last ten pounds aren’t going anywhere.

It might sound weird, but it’s true just the same.

Open the Gates of Conscious Awareness

In meditation, the conscious mind meets the unconscious mind, forming an important alliance.

Sticking with our 10-Pound scenario, let’s say that you engage a basic counting meditation. The conscious mind silently says “One…” while the unconscious mind responds with a fireworks show of random thoughts about cookies and comfort foods. The conscious mind continues with, “Two…” and the unconscious mind interjects more fireworks and possibly a laser light show of the salad you’ve planned for lunch being replaced with swirling vegan burgers and dancing air fries. And so it continues, up to 10.

Perhaps you chastise yourself, saying something internally like, “I’m so frustrated that I keep thinking about food that I want to not want!”

But what’s amazing is, each time you observe this frustration, the conscious and unconscious minds are in dialogue, and that’s where the seed of change takes root. That moment of observation is a glimpse into silence of the mind. As we become aware of our thoughts, we’re able to let them go. And move past them into the tranquility and insight of conscious awareness.

Meditation Is Always Working

We practice meditation as doctors practice medicine, lawyers practice the law, and musicians practice music.

Meditation is an ever-evolving process of combining – and reconciling – the observer and the doer inside ourselves. This is true whether you practice basic mindfulness during meditation, or whether you seek a deep soul connection with the Universal Divine.

The more we observe and accept our chattering thoughts, and the less we resist them, the easier it is to let those meaningless thoughts pass. They fade like vapor. When you practice meditation with the intention of detaching from your thoughts, you know it’s working simply because you’re engaged in the practice with that intention and commitment.

Suggested Practice

You can try a simple counting meditation on your own to see if you can discover – and identify – flashes of silent awakening as you notice your thoughts.

If you’d like a bit of help, please feel free to check out the three guided meditations in our One Series: One Love One, One Sat Nam One, and One Amen One. You can check them out with a 7-Day Free Trial to the full QuietSelf library.

Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn

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