Do you ever feel stuck in your head? Do you ever wish your mind would take flight like a phoenix? But instead you end up feeling more like a grounded dodo bird?
I used to feel that I was always recycling the same basic pattern of thoughts. That’s one of the things that spurred me to try meditation nearly 20 years ago. I had long heard that meditation could free your mind,and that captured my interest and imagination.
A “Free” Mind?
Of course, I had no idea what that really meant. What does a free mind look like anyways? In the end, meditation delivered the goods, but not in the way I thought it would.
When I first started, I mostly thought it was a very peculiar exercise, and I didn’t feel particularly “free” while I practiced it.
But I’ve learned over time that the promise is true. It’s possible to free your awareness. In fact, it’s more than possible. I’ve learned that you can free your mind through meditation practice just like you can build a bicep muscle through effort and repetition. It just takes practice.
So how do you free your mind? And what are the benefits?
What Stands Between You & Infinite Space?
Do you remember that movie The Truman Show and how the main character (played by Jim Carrey) lived in a bubble his whole life? Except, he didn’t know he was living in a bubble. It was like a giant dome, and he grew up under that dome thinking that it was everything.
In meditation, it’s kind of the same thing. And that dome metaphor is helpful. Let me explain.
Imagine you are sitting in a field and there is nothing between you and all of infinite space. You feel a direct connection to limitless expanse. Indeed, the great teachers tell us that we are one with that limitless space. Our unlimited awareness, they tell us, is pure, unfettered, and free to range out across the inner and outer cosmos.
But then imagine a giant dome descending on you. It’s huge and it eclipses that infinite expanse.
The dome encircles you. As you sit under it for weeks and months and years, you eventually forget there was anything other than what you see on the inside of that dome. The dome is beautiful in its own way, but it now defines your world, your sense of what’s possible, and your potential in life.
In the context of meditation, that dome is your mind. And meditation is the process of remembering your unlimited nature. But how does that work?
Developing Your X-Ray Vision
Eventually, under the dome, you learn about a special power you can develop. It’s called x-ray vision and you start to practice it. At first, you start to see a few cracks in the dome, but you’re not really sure if what you’re seeing is real.
But over time, your x-ray vision gets more powerful until you see cracks everywhere. Eventually, you practice so much that the dome becomes transparent, and the rays of the sun start to flood through the dome.
At first, it’s hard for you to believe. It’s overwhelming. But you see through the dome again and again. After decades, you now see the stars twinkling and you feel the warm light of the sun on your skin. It’s ecstatic.
At last, your mind is free again to range in its native habitat, the limitless expanse of the cosmos.
How To Free Your Awareness
So how do you cultivate your x-ray vision? How do you free your mind through meditation?
It’s simpler than you might think. In truth, meditation is your birthright. It’s as natural as breathing. So once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to free your awareness whenever you want.
I practice a form of meditation called free awarenessfrom the Advaita Vedanta tradition. It’s similar to Zen. Through this practice, I’ve learned how to free my own awareness from the confines of thought.
The idea with free awareness is that you gently allow your attention to rest on nothing at all. As you get better at it, your awareness begins to expand without limits. Of course, it’s easier said than done.
Most people ask, what on earth do you mean put your attention on nothing? Well, it takes a lot of practice.
Ending Our Addiction To Thought
Here’s another way to put it:to free our awareness, we need to start withdrawing our attention from a lifelong habit.
That habit is our addiction to thought. Most of us have no idea how addicted we are to the stream of thought that runs like a glittering river through our own minds.
You can free your awareness by simply being still, relaxing, and not responding to anything that arises in the field of your attention. It’s a process of letting go. It’s also a process of renunciation.
When you meditate, you are essentially doing a “thought fast” by resisting the temptation to follow any object in your awareness.
You leave all your thoughts alone. That includes the good ones, the bad ones, the old ones, the new ones—all of them.
The more you practice letting go, the more you start to see through this relentless stream of thought. To truly free your awareness, you simply resist the very natural and life-long compulsion to follow your thoughts and feelings. Instead, you remain perfectly still. Inside and out.
That’s the essence of meditation.
As you grow adept at being still and letting go, you will see how your addiction to thought frames your world in fundamental ways. It defines your sense of what’s real and what’s possible. But more importantly, you will start to discover that you are infinitely more than what you think.
Meditation really is like a super power. It won’t fix everything, of course. But it will free your mind and the cosmos will open to you in ways you can’t yet imagine.