Today, I engaged in my 180th consecutive day of meditation, a record for me for all sorts of reasons. I’m not renown for my ability to stick with things in general, and given that mindfulness is such an intentional action, this is a real milestone for me.
As important, it reflects on how important and powerful the practice of mindfulness is. There is a lot of information–and disinformation–out there about what mindfulness is and does, so I think it’s important to share my own experience so that others have a point of comparison when evaluating that information.
For me, mindfullness and meditation are part of a broader pursuit called active thinking. Active thinking as a brain training routine that encourages the practitioner to evaluate their thoughts with intent and, as much as possible, discipline themselves to train their brains to focus rather than be scattered.
This is an important undertaking for me as someone who struggles with (not formally diagnosed for a variety of reasons) adult ADHD and other mental health challenges. It’s easy for my brain to go wild, and my wild brain can get very dark, and active thinking forces me to evaluate why and to create boundaries that help reign the wildness in.
My own practice is something of a departure from traditional mindfulness in that, instead of always just making my brain stop thinking (my interpretation of most traditional meditation; your mileage may vary), I often take the time to seize the random thoughts blazing through my head and follow them to their sources. Doing so helps me understand what triggers them and, sometimes, how to manage those triggers.
I’m making no other claims, but the fact is that the closest approximation I can think of to my process is that presented in Sherlock’s mind palace from the BBC’s latest iteration of Sherlock Holmes. I imagine my own mind as a vast and unkempt library full of pesky beings who are constantly rearranging the books therein for reasons that are often difficult to understand. One of those beings in particular has the job showing me random books with the near constant question, “What about this?”
By using mindfulness and active thinking, I delve into that library with the intent of establishing some sort of order. Sometimes, I just wall things off to deal with them later. Other times, I place things in order and forbid the denizens from disturbing that order. I’m not always successful, and there is a lot of backtracking and repeating, but the process generally moves forward.
To me, the most important part of this process is that it, slowly but surely, reclaims my brain for me. Instead of it being an undisciplined thought generator, it increasingly stands by to deal with the information and thoughts I feed it. It’s an arduous process, but over time, it pays dividends that are worth the effort.
Mindlfullness is not a perfect process, hence the reason it’s called a practice. Everyone’s experience will vary, but in my opinion, it’s a worthwhile undertaking for anyone who wants to have better control over their own brains.
As for me, I’m shooting for a full year of mediation every day. Here’s to the challenge.