Choosing Our Thoughts: Meditation in Action


Someone who I thought I’d lost came back into my life not too long ago. This was someone I loved very dearly and I had come to believe we would never be able to reconnect until one day, unexpectedly, they were back in my life. Initially I was so happy to have them back, until I realized that though we were in each others lives again, things were different and my thoughts turned to all the regret and mistakes of the past and wishing we could go back to how things were. I was awash with nostalgia and sadness so much of the time we were together that I struggled to enjoy the sheer amazingness of having them back in my life. When we spent time together I’d barely be present and usually comparing all the differences between the way things used to be (which in my mind looking back, had of course been perfect) and the way things were now. It was more bitter than sweet.

Until one day I realized, I could keep looking back at all the things I wished had happened differently and wanting to turn back time, or I could embrace where we were now and trust it enough to see where it took us. I could focus on the past, or I could focus on being grateful that we’d reconnected and for the new chance we’d been given to be in each other’s lives again. I could leave the bitter and take the sweet.

This is meditation in action. Choosing the thoughts we will allow to live in our minds, the emotions we will allow to grow in our hearts.

For many years I looked at meditation as this lofty practice, passive and practically impossible for a neurotic like me. So many people I talk to think the same thing and have that same image of the guru floating on the lotus flower with the bhindi at ajna. Like so many, I thought that meditation is stopping our thoughts altogether. Letting the mind be completely empty.

While this state of complete oneness and divine emptiness is discussed in the yoga sutras as that ultimate state of samadhi where we are one with ourselves and with the world around us, and while of course it is a worthy aim, the reality is in our modern world and times (and especially if you’re a New Yorker!), approaching it this way can feel daunting and perhaps cause us to give up before we’ve even started.

A more realistic and accessible way to approach meditation is to understand that actually, it is is more active than passive. It is a practice that can allow us to sit with our thoughts both positive and negative, be with what we feel, without judgement and with acceptance, and with time, learn to slow it all down enough to choose the ones that are useful, and release the ones that are waste