If you have ever meditated, you have seen the devil – none other than your mind. It just won’t sit still.
You want to focus on your breath. Yet, it will do anything but that. The mind keeps getting distracted by thoughts and daydreams. You bring it back and in no time, it is gone again. And again. And again.
Finally, we all get frustrated and ask – how can I stop my mind from wandering? And every meditation master has only one thing to say: Gently bring your mind back to the breath (or whatever you were focusing on) without self-blame.
You wonder – is that it? You guys have been meditating for 2,500 years (at least) and you don’t have a better solution to mind-wandering?
Nope. That is the answer.
But as simple as this answer seems, it hides the wisdom we need to change our life. And for that, we first need to understand the answer better.
When you were meditating, your mind wandered off involuntarily – it was not your decision and there was nothing you could have done to stop that. So if it wasn’t voluntary or a result of your negligence, then why blame yourself?
Blaming only saps your energy and willpower.
Also, every time you refocus your attention, your brain rewires a teeny-weeny bit – you make progress, even though you hardly feel it. Over months and years, you start seeing the cumulative effect of that rewiring, when your mind-wandering goes down.
Now let us apply the same idea to different scenarios in life.
Let us say, you applied for a job interview. You did your best but did not get the job offer.
What is our normal response? We beat ourselves up. And in the process, we waste the time that we could have spent on applying for another job.
Instead, what should you do? As in meditation, restart without self-blame. Apply to other companies and patiently go through the process.
Another example: You launch a business initiative – maybe, you do a startup or start a blog. And it doesn’t take off. So what do you do? Once again, blame, frustration, and disappointment. I have myself done that.
But what if we just restarted without self-blame?
There is something incredibly uplifting about this simple answer – all you have to do is restart without self-blame.
And if you keep doing that, what happens?
Meditators achieve unimaginable levels of proficiency. Mingyur Rinpoche, a well-known Tibetan yogi, was able to drop into the state of deepest calm in less than a second – something most of us won’t be do even in a few hours.
Some meditation masters have so trained their minds that if a bomb goes off next to them, they will have no reflex reaction.
And how did they become so proficient? They also started just like us – by bringing their minds back without any blame. But over the years, the mental rewiring added up.
They were at it for far longer than we can imagine. When Mingyur Rinpoche was last studied in a lab, he had 60,000 meditation hours under his belt. And that was many years ago. By comparison, even 10,000 – 20,000 hours are considered sufficient for mastery.
When we think of achieving big goals or becoming exceptional at something – we keep looking for some mysterious secret. Often, the only secret is to restart without self-blame, again and again, with infinite patience.
This is not to say that the right guidance, coaching, and know-how don’t make a huge difference – they absolutely do. But it will still require patient repetition of your craft.
Meditation is a blueprint for how to live our life. And ‘restarting without self-blame’ is the biggest lesson I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else.
So the next time something goes wrong, don’t blame yourself. Just smile, let go, and restart.