I am often asked what I think about when I meditate. Many people think meditation is about having no ideas or no thoughts at all. This is impossible. Even monks with tens of thousands of hours of meditation have thoughts coming, just slower and fewer.
My experience after more than a year of meditating for about an hour a day (including a ten-day retreat where I sat for ten hours a day) is that my brain gets much slower when I meditate. I still get many ideas but it doesn't feel like a crazy monkey getting bombarded with ideas you get at the beginning. It's like my whole body metabolism slows down. I could not sit still for more than fifteen minutes a year ago. Now I sit for an hour and I have no pain; it feels like ten minutes. I breathe very slowly and manage not to move a hair for that entire hour. My brain does the same -- it's slow and gets many fewer ideas.
I use the technique I learned during the Vipassana retreat. I observe my body sensations "from the top of the head to the feet, scanning the entire body permanently." Sensations are broad and generalized at the beginning, like itching or pain. The more you do it the more you feel delicate, subtle sensations such as warm or cold air touching your skin in areas of your body you did not even think could make you feel anything.
Each time an idea shows up in your brain, observe it like a cloud going through the sky but don't stay in it -- just let it go. With some training it works really well and you can just stay a few seconds on an incoming idea then go back to observing your body sensations which according to scientific research is good for your brain.
Here is a typology of my thoughts.
1. Persistent thoughts
Those are the tough ones. They come back all the time. It can be guilt you feel about something and you had it for years. It can be your business not doing great and your brain can't help but focus on it. It could be something about your children's education that you can't solve easily and is here to stay for years.
2. The present
I often observe my brain caught in the present. Thinking about dinner tonight. An annoying noise I can hear. A call I need to make. Those thoughts don't matter at all and you know they are going to disappear in a few hours or days yet they are still here and "catch you" even though you know it is futile to think them.
3. Clarity on complex decisions
You have to make decisions constantly in your life. Some decisions are really tough. You don't know what to do. Even if you observe your sensations and try not to focus on anything, decision thoughts keep coming back because your brain wants to resolve the problem. I discovered during my ten day retreat that as those decision thoughts kept coming back each time they were a little different. Like if there was a new context or I was seeing the problem from a different angle. As I meditate I feel I'm doing a 360 of major problems in my mind. There is a possibility it stops and meditation brings clarity. Your brain brings you every possible angle of a decision until it stops because it feels like you covered it all. Then the decision becomes obvious and that thought stops showing up. And you feel amazing.
4. Totally new ideas
Today as I meditated I got a great idea. It doesn't happen during each meditation but when it does it's a "wow". It's the most obvious benefit of meditation. Your mind gets so calm and clear that ideas you would likely not have otherwise emerge. It could be a business idea or a book idea. It could be something you want to do. It could be understanding a conversation in a way you had not seen before. It's awesome.
Each time after a few seconds I go back to my body scan and my sensations. I try to look at my brain as a scientist observing something and try to notice patterns. As you get more aware of how your brain works you can try to change it. I try to put persistent ideas or disturbing ideas in the context of my whole life. Will this matter in 10 years? Will it change anything significant in my life? Generally the answer is no and it makes those thoughts less persistent. It's exactly how you train your brain to ignore itching sensations of pain going through your body as you meditate for an hour. As you focus on the pain it quickly diminishes or goes away -- it takes some training though. It's the same with those thoughts you want to control or get rid of.
Don't try not to have ideas when you meditate, on the contrary welcome them and let them go. If they come back it's ok; your brain is processing them and showing you a different point of view. At one point it will stop. And then you have that rare, blissful moment of peace.
La Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudí's most famous works in Barcelona. It's a giant Basilica that has been under construction since 1882 (that's not a typing error!) and it's not expected to be completed for some time yet.
Much controversy surrounds the building of the Sagrada Familia. Today new construction materials are being used which, some feel, Gaudí himself would not have used.
When you visit the building you will see the contrast in the stone color between the front and back of the building. Also the actual style of construction appears somewhat different between the new and old parts of the building.
Gaudí played an active role in directing the construction of the Sagrada Familia until his death in 1926. He would often request that work be modified and adjusted until it was exactly what he had in mind. However today, because of the nature of the existing designs, his work is partly open to interpretation.
Interpretation of the ordinal designs by present day architects is particularly challenging because the actual construction stones are irregularly shaped.
The building is still under construction so be prepared to see a lot of work continuing when you visit. However this in itself is interesting, especially if you visit the museum inside the building.
Regardless of all the controversy surrounding the Sagrada Familia it is a truly magnificent building and an absolute must see when you visit Barcelona.
- American Reading CompanyVice President, Digital Products, 2016 - presentAmerican Reading Company's digital products are student literacy game changers: SchoolPace - Capture achievement data that targets reading growth for every student, every classroom, every school, every day. eIRLA and eENIL - Track which standards each student has mastered and use real-time formative assessment to provide evidence of that mastery in both English (IRLA) and Spanish (ENIL). IRLA Resource Center - Online searchable database including instructional supports and videos for teachers and administrators to help use the IRLA to accelerate student reading growth. eLibraries - Digital eBook solution backed by the Common Core State Standards. Every IRLA eLibrary collection features beautiful books from a variety of publishers, hand-picked by teachers, curriculum specialists, and literacy activists on staff to assure the best reading and learning experience. Our mission: To ensure every student is reading on or above grade level.
- Ingram Content GroupMyiLibrary, 2008 - 2015Joined Ingram, the world’s largest book and content distributor, through the successful acquisition of iofy corporation, retaining key members of my team and directing development, QA, and content processing. Managed the company’s Philadelphia office and support teams in Canada and California. Provided guidance on mobile market for strategic planning.
- ProQuestTechnology Manager, 2015 - 2016MyiLibrary (http://www.myilibrary.com) was acquired from Ingram as part of the Coutts Information Systems acquisition (http://www.proquest.com/about/news/2015/ProQuest-to-Acquire-Coutts-Information-Services-and-MyiLibrary-from-Ingram-Content-Group.html). Our dedication to academic content aggregation and delivery remains unchanged.
- West Chester University2012
- Cuesta College
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