In my post yesterday about the skill developed for/during meditation, I forgot to mention the skill of returning! This is used when my monkey mind starts thinking, “Hmm, I’ll need to leave work early to get there on time tonight… I wonder if I’ll have time to change clothes… I can wear my new top… Who’s going to be there? I need to go to the grocery store too…” in the middle of meditation. I need to return my attention to the present moment, to my teacher’s directive, whole body awareness.
I have done this so often that I found tremendous value in putting my intent into words when I first sit down to meditate. Then when my mind strays, I bring it back to that anchored intent:
May my mind become steady with whole body awareness.
By the way, that act of gently and lovingly returning one’s wandering mind back to the present moment and to whole body awareness activates a small area between the limbic mid-brain and the frontal cortex called the anterior cingulate cortex, the ACC for short.
The ACC has to do with regulating emotions and behavior, as you might have guessed from its location. It appears that activating the ACC results in lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue, and pain sensitivity. In other words, more calm, happiness, acceptance, alertness, and pleasure!
And who doesn’t want that?
You may be wondering how I get my monkey mind to cooperate. I tell it that later it can think and wander all it wants to, but right now during meditation is not the time. Notice I don’t tell monkey mind that it’s bad for interrupting. It’s like a two-year-old sometimes! Redirect, redirect, redirect!!!