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Take a moment to imagine someone meditating. What do you see? Pure bliss? Serenity? Instagram photos of a fit individual seated in full lotus on the beach as the sun rises? Like so many things in our lives, we’re overthinking it.

During meditation practice, we train our minds using our minds. Now, that may sound very confusing. Fortunately for us, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. If we take a moment to envision our minds as puppies, things become a bit more clear.

Like our minds, puppies are chaotic and constantly getting themselves into trouble. One moment they’re investigating a bug, the next they’re chewing on the sofa and a moment later they’re stuck behind the washing machine. Does that sound familiar? It should. Our minds are just like puppies. They’re constantly darting between distractions, creating imaginary futures, replaying past events, and getting lost in over-analyzing every experience.

When training a puppy, one of the first things we do is teach it to sit and be still. We hope to accomplish something similar for our minds during meditation practice. In meditation, we choose to focus on one thing. Maybe it’s our breath or a mantra or an image. Whatever the object, the purpose is the same: to be mindful and fully in-the-moment, instead of chasing after thoughts and emotions.

Make no mistake. Everyone gets distracted, but it’s actually when we catch ourselves being distracted that we reward our puppy mind. It’s common for people practicing meditation to become discouraged when they can’t get the puppy in their head to stay perfectly still, but how many of us have ever met a perfectly behaved puppy? If you have, you’re more lucky than most! It’s called meditation “practice” for a reason: we’re working with our mind and encouraging it to sit more frequently and for longer periods.

It’s actually a beautiful moment of clarity when our mind catches itself overthinking. That’s the moment when we reward the puppy in our head with a pat and a smile. Puppies respond best when rewarded and not when unnecessarily punished.

This brings us to another important point. The first day we bring a puppy home, we don’t hope to have trained in 24 hours. Pushing a puppy too far and too fast rarely has positive or beneficial results. When meditating, consider stopping while still enjoying the practice and before it becomes too frustrating. This will make sure the puppy mind keeps wanting to come back for more practice.

Now, once again, imagine someone meditating? What do you see? Maybe you see yourself, gently working the puppy in your head and encouraging it to sit and stay a little more each day, instead of chasing after cats and getting stuck in laundry baskets.

Published on Nov 20 09 : 00 am