Meditation

Ask Roger: How to Stop Ruminating and Find Peace in the Present Moment

Roger Gabriel

Every month, Roger Gabriel, Chopra’s Chief Meditation Officer, will be answering questions from our followers. If you have a general question for him around meditation and spiritual practices, please send an email to askroger@chopra.com, and your question may be one he answers next month.

This month, Roger answers questions about chants to start and end a meditation practice, how to stop ruminating, finding peace in the present moment, and more.

How do I stop ruminating?

If you’re meditating, whenever you realize your mind is wandering, simply return to the mantra. Thoughts are a normal part of meditation and usually indicate some release of stress, which is a good thing. Thoughts outside of meditation are generally memories or desires, taking us into the future or the past. To break the pattern of repeated thinking about the same thing, take a few deep breaths and bring your awareness to the breath. Your breath can only be in the present moment, so awareness of it brings you out of thoughts of the future or past. Then think of something that you really like, something that brings you joy. Ruminate on that.

Is it possible to change reality with our thoughts?

Your thoughts are actually creating your reality all the time. We project our fears, doubts, joys and sorrows on the world all the time. By changing your thoughts and your attitude, you can change your world. Lord Buddha said, “ Our life is shaped by our mind, we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought, joy follows a pure thought”.

How long does it take to put thoughts aside?

There will always be thoughts, but the quality of the thoughts will change. As we progress with our spiritual practices, we become more of the witness to our thoughts rather than identifying with the thoughts themselves. Eckhart Tolle said, “You are the sky, everything else are just clouds”. Instead of struggling against thoughts or getting attached to them, notice them, and allow them to drift in and out, like clouds on a summer’s day.

How do you stay in the present moment and not worry about the future?

The definition of worrying is “praying for what you don’t want”, which is why worrying is one of the most destructive things we do to ourselves. Think back to this time last year, what were you worried about then. Did it happen? Even if it did, I assume you survived. As the philosopher Michel de Montaigne said, ”My life has been full of terrible misfortunes -- most of which have never happened.” Nothing in life should be feared, it only needs to be understood. However, while you’re doing that, use your breath. Our breath is probably our most under utilized tool. It’s always with us, always available. Worrying and negative expectations take us into the future, your breath is always in the present. Whenever those worrying thoughts arise, move your awareness to your breath. Take a few deep breaths and just observe it for a couple of minutes. Allow the breath to center and ground you. Worrying also depletes our energy, whereas the breath is energizing. Make friends with your breath, it will serve you well.

Can you please tell me the four intentions you give at the end of meditation?

The four intentions were added to the Chopra meditation program a few years ago by Deepak. They can be repeated silently at the end of your meditation practice or before sleeping at night. They are to enliven health, harmony and happiness on all levels of life. You can intend them for yourself or also include others with them.

With the awareness throughout the body, “Joyful energetic body”
With awareness in the heart area, “Loving compassionate heart”
With awareness between the eyebrows, “Reflective alert mind”
With awareness beyond the body and mind, “Lightness of Being”

Is there a specific chant to start and end a meditation session?

The Vedic tradition has many hundreds of chants, so you could use any that feels comfortable to you. Different days of the week have certain archetypal energies and chants associated with them, as do special festival days. In the morning I like to start with a Ganesh chant to clear the energy for the day, such as Om Gam Ganapatayai Namaha. I also include some gratitude, particularly for my teachers. At the end of meditation, I like to send blessings to the world. Chanting the mantra Shanti for peace, is a nice way to end meditation.

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