In my previous blog I quoted Pema Chodron’s thought that we desire stability and foundation while living our life which is a dynamic, changing process. I claimed meditation was what we needed. How does meditation help? Meditation is a tool which allows us to challenge our thoughts.

Our thoughts control our emotions. On page 12 of Living Beautifully Pema discusses how an emotion, like anger, only lasts ninety seconds. What keeps it alive after the ninety seconds is that we focus on it and won’t let go. We keep replaying our memory of what made us mad. It’s so automatic we don’t consciously realize what we are doing. We get caught up in the problem.

In contrast, after we’ve been practicing meditation for a while, our mind sees the thought, the attached emotion, and our unwavering attention to the problem, and it shouts, “Time out!” We stop the automatic replay of the problem. During the time out we have the opportunity put things into perspective.

Unless you meditate already, you can’t appreciate how meditation changes the functioning of your mind. So let me share an experience. In the early 90’s I regularly attended Tuesday night meditations taught by Buddhist monks from Thailand. When I learned they were having a three day weekend retreat I immediately signed up. All we did for the three days was listen to talks, do seated meditation and do walking meditation. As I was getting ready to leave Sunday afternoon I felt disappointed. I hoped for a more significant mind change and I didn’t see it. Maybe I wasted my time.

I got in my car and pulled out on to the nearby highway to head home. Whoosh! A car passed me so fast I wondered what the guy was thinking. Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Three more cars sped past, one beeping his horn. I was thinking of showing them a sign of my displeasure when I glanced at my speedometer. I laughed. I was in the left lane going 30 mph in a 55 zone. I moved over, gradually increased my speed to a respectable 50 mph, and made it home safely.

Meditation won’t change you after one session. It will change your thinking slowly and surely over time. It will give you the ability to call your own time outs. It will help you feel at ease in this fundamentally ambiguous existence.