9. Meditating "Against The Grain"

Sometimes our brains have other ideas.


This morning, as with almost every morning, I sat on the sofa in my usual cross-legged position and intended to sit in silent meditation for 10-15 minutes.

My brain had other ideas.

Sometimes in life we are slogging through the mud to get from point A to point B. There are things on our minds that are stressful, or that cause us emotional upset or distress. The challenges we face at those times can sometimes drag us into worry, overthinking, or rumination traps. We can easily become consumed with our problems. We can become overwhelmed by our discomfort and our fear. When this happens we often find ourselves focused intently on the discomfort, the fear, and the thoughts that drive them and fan those flames.

These are the times when a strong meditation practice can really help. We get glued to our thoughts and how we feel. Sitting for a few minutes to practice detaching from the negative or unpleasant chatter in our minds helps us more effectively and confidently navigate through it. During these times meditation makes undesirable things easier to handle.

But what happens when the chatter isn’t based on fear, worry, or rumination. What happens when there is no discomfort?

I am currently working on quite a few excellent projects, including the launch of this email newsletter that you’re reading right now. I really love what I am doing, and I am excited about it. There is chatter in my mind now, but this is positive chatter. I am not being driven by fear or avoidance. I am not building catastrophic stories in my head. I am feeling no anxiety or worry over my thoughts.

Do I need to detach from that?

Must I try to slow the stream of my thoughts or make “space” between me and them?

I would argue that I most certainly do not!

The context around our meditation practice matters. When we sit to practice, we are often going against the grain. In recovery we are going against what most of us would call a negative grain. We’re trying to navigate through a negative context, using our meditation to help us do that.

But what if the grain is positive? Must we go against that to detach and focus elsewhere? My focus this morning was exactly where I wanted it to be, and for all the right reasons. Still I tried to sit and meditate by focusing on my breath. Instead I spent the entire time thinking about The Anxious Morning and what I wanted to write today. I should have just opened my iPad and started writing. Forcing meditation was not required in any way.

When you find yourself in a positive context where you are genuinely excited about something and are enjoying thinking about it, then think about it! Anxiety gives thinking and feeling a bad reputation. But thinking and feeling are not always automatically bad. If thinking and feeling is working for you in a given context because it is moving you toward what you want (rather than just way from what you fear), then think and feel. Go for it!

We do not always have to meditate against the grain.

Tomorrow we’ll take our first look at worry and worrying.

Have you listened to this week’s episode of The Anxious Truth podcast? Check it out out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or my website and YouTube channel.