Most people have had a computer lock up on them. The programming gets in an infinite loop and the screen freezes. At this point the computer must be restarted by pressing the reset button. I’m pointing this out because the human brain also gets stuck similar to a screen lock. When the brain rushes around on an endless loop, it might be time to hit the reset button. Unfortunately, the human reset button isn’t as easy to press. In fact, many people don’t even know that we have one! Practicing meditation is practicing how to push the reset button for the brain.

There are lots of questions about meditation. However, there are 100’s of times more answers than there are question. This tsunami of info makes it difficult to sift through to find out what’s useful and what’s rubbish. Before I can explain a few things about meditation, I first have explain some of the workings of the brain.

The book, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde touches on the subject of dualism within the brain. Although this book is fiction, most psychologists agree that there is merit in the concept of the two minds. Meditation is needed in order for these two minds to work together as opposed the internal conflict that usually occurs. The relaxing feeling comes from the cooperation.

The elephant rider analogy

Psychologists have long told us that there are two independent “always-on” sides of our brain. One is the emotional side, the other the rational side. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt uses an analogy to explain both: the emotional side is the elephant, the rational side is the rider. The rider of the elephant looks like he or she is in charge. However, when there’s a disagreement between  elephant and the rider, the much stronger elephant always wins.

There’s an old cliché that’s repeated often about the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. This is one of those messages that are very deep. However, unless you understand the depth of it, these clever words are banal and are only useful as a prop that people can use to decorate their home. Bear with me as I explore some of the depth. I want to discuss the part about the mind being a terrible master.
The elephant and rider are constantly battling. This struggle is the cornerstone of suffering. It’s imperative to get the rider and elephant to cooperate. However, this is easier said than done. Fighting against this struggle only makes it worse. Relaxing is required in order to get them to cooperate. Unfortunately, during the struggle this feels like the last thing that we want to do!

Meditation is the key

We all have mind chatter. The fact that we have this chatter isn’t the problem. The difficulty comes in if we were to meld with it and believe all this negative self talk is true. The problem is that we’ve heard it all our lives. Although it’s a lie, the internal voice create the ‘illusion of truth’ by pulverizing you with this nonsense several hours a day for years!

Imagine the scenario. A three year old child starts showering you with insults. Although it would be annoying, it’s easy to consider the source of the insults. It’s a child, His opinion doesn’t matter. It would be easy to walk away and not let them sink in. It would be silly if you’d allow this to ruin your day.

Imagine that you truly believed the insults. “Auggg! I’m a poo poo head! A three year old called me this and therefore it must be true!” This is what often occurs from the unrelenting negative self talk. This is what I mean by “meld with it”. This child represents our mind chatter. It isn’t a problem that it exists or that we can’t turn it off. The problem comes in if you would allow it to dictate your life. This would make for a stormy existence if you were to become convinced that this thought vomit is true! This is the part of ‘The mind can be a terrible master’ that I want to explore.

If we become a servant/slave to our random thoughts, our life becomes very unstable and turbulent.

“Why am I such a loser? I shouldn’t be depressed. Something must be wrong with me. I’m a loser for feeling so bad. Only a loser would call himself a loser. I should stop calling myself a loser. I can’t stop because I’m such a loser.”

The above paragraph was probably hard to read. Just imagine how hard it would be if it was an audio playing on an endless loop in your head! It’s playing in your head for hours for many days out of the week! Only a poo poo head would meld with these thoughts.

Everybody has brain chatter. It’s normal and healthy to have it. (sort of) It can provide constructive criticism and we can benefit from it. Healthy isn’t the right word. It’s like saying that fire is healthy. Fire can be a better way to describe brain chatter. Fire is destructive but it can also be very useful! The amount of fire combined with the amount of control is what determines whether it’s useful or damaging. A candle provides light. A campfire provides warmth. If there’s no control then there’s no limit to the amount of destruction that it can cause. Just think about a major city that has no fire department! Hundreds of lives can be lost and can result in millions of dollars in damages!

You don’t have to control your thoughts’ you just have to stop letting your thoughts control you.
-Dan Millman

I like the fire analogy because it shows how destructive it can become. However, control isn’t really the right word for what’s needed with brain chatter. We all have chatter that we can’t control. That’s not the problem. It becomes a problem if we have little/no ability to shut it out or to refrain from melding with it. This statement is a mouthful. Therefore, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to this concept as ‘volume control’. If our volume control is poor, our mind turns into a brain bully. Below are two false statements.

1. Trying to control the volume of the brain chatter is similar to trying to control the weather. It can’t be done.

2. It’s not worth the effort.

Meditation brings up many preconceived opinions of it. Things such as spiritual enlightenment, grandiose claims, and escapism often spring to mind. The brain is designed to think. Trying to make it not think is like asking a magnet to not attract metal! OK, it’s not as bad as this but it feels as though you’re swimming against the current. The mind hates to meditate! It feels awkward to try to stop thinking. At lightning speed, it can conjure up all kinds of reasons why meditation is a stupid waste of time.

1. It’s so boring

2. The reason why I’m stressed is that I don’t have enough time. Now I’m wasting even more time by sitting still and doing nothing! How stupid is this?

3. I don’t have the right clothes. I need loose fitting clothing that is color coordinated to match my layout mat.

4. I’ll do this later. Now isn’t a good time.

5. People that meditate only do it to try to look the part. They’re trying to impress people about how ‘enlightened’ they are. I live in the real world and I don’t buy into this spiritual crap.

6. What if my friends find out that I’m doing this? I can’t take that sort of embarrassment.

This is further exacerbated by the confusion that surrounds what meditation actually is. While you’re being bombarded with the above excuses, you may also have a few more. “I thought this was supposed to be relaxing! This is anything but that! I must be doing it wrong. I’m wasting my time! I’ll start doing this when I learn how to do it properly!”

This is an example of some of the thoughts that a person that’s new to meditation would feel. Where do these thoughts come from? To answer this, let’s go back to the elephant and the rider analogy but we’ll modify it a bit. Let’s change the elephant to a three year old toddler and the rider as the parent. At first, this seems contradictory. Bear with me. I only want to compare maturity. We’re no longer talking about which one is stronger.

Imagine that the parent and the toddler are waiting in the reception area for a doctor’s appointment. The toddler struggles to sit still. He’s fidgeting, getting into mischief, and doing anything that he can to fend off boredom. This is where the random thoughts come from that you can’t turn off. The toddler/elephant is protesting as loud as possible about the task of sitting still. He’ll use any excuse that he can think of to get out of this burden. This appalling chore is about as entertaining as watching paint dry! This is very similar to the stray voices that try to get out of meditating! The voice of the child can also be described as the inner narrator. The object is NOT to lose the inner narrator. It’s to realize that it’s only a bundle of thoughts. It’s to understand that they can be similar to that of the insults spouting from the mouth of a three year old child. It’sall too easy to forget this. That’s why we often take them on board and meld with the thoughts. “Auggg! I’m a poo poo head! A three year old called me this and therefore it must be true!”

When a person meditates, the parent/rider is learning patience and practicing how not to be flustered. While you meditate, imagine your improved ‘parenting skills’. You’re getting better at remaining calm as you pick up your son (the elephant) and gently put him back in the chair. Meditation is about becoming a peaceful and patient parent. It’s not about being a dogmatic one that aggressively forces the child into his seat. This is the equivalent to metal pushups. Each time the parent gets out of the chair, calmly walks over to the child, and gently makes him sit quietly, it’s doing a mental pushup. (sort of) That’s because it’s also practising a skill such as learning to play a piano. (or hitting the reset button) The more often that you practice hitting the reset button, the better you become at refraining from being bullied by the random stray thoughts.

I wrote this page because many people don’t understand this. They prove their ignorance every time they say, “I’m not very good at meditation.” It’s not about preventing the child from fidgeting. Toddlers are very good at exercising our patients. The monkey mind is also great at this as well as it swings from branch to branch (though to thought) and never wants to settle.

When the child climbs out of the chair for the 37th time, you calmly walk over, pick him up, and gently put him back. Few parents can maintain a gentle composure straight off the bat. The frustration gets the better of most of us. If/when you get frustrated, THAT’S OK! When your thoughts wander, THAT’S OK AS WELL! Berating yourself for allowing this to happen is the same voice that’s calling you a poo poo head. If this desire to meld with these thoughts are fading, you’re improving! You’re getting better at meditating! Focus on this improvement every time that you feel like berating yourself.

Meditation has become popular in the west and it helps some people find their ‘happy place’ while they listen to music or the voice of the teacher. The important words here are ‘some people’. If you’re not one of those people that don’t find it relaxing then that’s OK. This doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong. I’ll further explain this by talking about physical fitness.

Physical exertion can produce sweat, tiredness, and sore muscles. Some people enjoy this DURING the activity. It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t. The good feeling comes with improved health. In the same way, a good feeling WILL follow meditation. It’s the improved mental health that comes as the person becomes better finding the reset button. This is what brings on the relaxation and the pleasurable experience. All too many people believe, “I’m not feeling relaxed DURING the time that I meditate. Therefore, I must be doing it wrong!” This is false. It can be uncomfortable during meditation.

This image is a metaphor for meditation. They’re both improving their health whether or not they’re enjoying their time in the gymnasium

“I’m doing it wrong, I’m doing it wrong, I’m doing it wrong, I’m doing it wrong” can fill a person’s head. When this happens, imagine yourself doing physical exercise such as lifting weights. You can lift SLIGHTLY more weight than you could the last time that you exercised. This concept is what you achieve when you notice that it’s SLIGHTLY quicker to reel in the wandering mind.


You don’t berate yourself as viciously as you had before.

Focus on this improvement. Whenever you feel the mind chatter, remember the improvement. THIS IS IMPORTANT! If you focus on, “This isn’t relaxing” or “I’m not very good at bridling my wandering mind” then you’re missing the point. Guided meditation is popular in groups. However, sometimes this style can be more difficult because you have the additional voices and the haunting urge to keep up with the Jones. “Everybody else looks as though they’re better at this than me. I wish that my meditation clothes were as stylish or trendy as hers. My layout mat isn’t as thick as some of the other ones that I see here. If I had a better cushion like everybody else, I’d be able to do this.” These added thoughts give the monkey mind more branches that it can jump to.

“Don’t compare yourself”. The self help books have been telling us this for decades. In spite of this, people still do. That’s because it’s difficult if not impossible to stop the urge of comparison. To this I say, “Go ahead and compare yourself!” Don’t fight this urge. Redirect it. Instead of comparing yourself against others, compare yourself against yourself.

Don’t compare yourself with other people; compare yourself with who you were yesterday.

- Jordan Peterson

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