I read and enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert's best selling novel "Eat, Pray, Love", and also saw the movie starring Julia Roberts. The part of the movie that struck me as the most memorable was when the author was bickering with her friend, Richard, at the Indian ashram. He was encouraging Elizabeth to pursue meditation as a strict discipline, and she was doubting her ability to focus, saying that her thoughts always took control and ran away with her.
Richard said something along the lines of, "You've got to choose which thoughts you let into your mind to think about."
As someone whose mind runs away from me as well, Richard's words present a profound and novel concept: the idea that I can pick and choose what I want to think about. This concept of meditation or "emptying the mind" is typically associated with Eastern philosophy & religions, like Buddhism, yoga, and the culture of India, however, I am becoming more & more convinced that this practice would be a worthwhile pursuit in our normal, everyday, American existence. I've read scientific studies describing how participants' blood pressure and stress levels decreased drastically when meditation was practiced several times a week. I've even read scientists' speculations that disorders of the brain, like Alzheimer's, might be prevented or reduced by regular meditation. It seems as though the scientific community is saying that having a few prolonged quiet moments throughout the week will make us all a little healthier by directing effecting our bodies and brains!
So I was thinking of an analogy of meditation that our media-obsessed, American culture could comprehend, and I thought of television channels. Meditating and thus choosing your thoughts is like picking which tv channel you want to watch. How is it there's 600 satellite tv channels and there's still nothing on?
So I have been trying emptying my mind and being "in the moment" as I'm trying to fall asleep and my mind is buzzing with thoughts about how my day went, what I have to do tomorrow, and such. And you know what? It works! When my brain is quiet, my body is able to realize its fatigue and drift off to sleep.
So now, if a thought enters my mind that's negative, self-bashing, or fearful, I think of television, and I change the mental channel.