I've only been lead through a Buddhist meditation experience twice in my life. Both were in college, meaning around ummm 13-14 years ago. One was lead by a Zen practitioner; the other was Tibetan. One of the only things I remember from those sessions was a tip on how to quiet the mind.
The goal is a completely still mind exhibiting total peace. And one of the keys to getting there was not to fight "failures" along the way. A failure in this case is a thought. One is not meditating if one is sitting there contemplating the things they have to do at work tomorrow or the stupid things your sister-in-law said to your mother. You are instead trying to find silence. You are to just sit.
Of course, simply sitting somewhere for 20 minutes is immensely difficult and when people are trying to do it for the first time, they typically see a thought pop up and try to crush it, push it away, cram it back down. And the session goes something like this:
Sitting like this is supposed to be comfy?! I think I'm losing feeling in my foot already and he just turned the lights down.
Oh, damn, a thought. The bald guy said not to think.
Ok, here I am now. Sitting. Calm. I'm so calm. Damn. I'm thinking about being calm. I will no longer think. Here I am not thinking!
I wonder if Ashley likes guys who meditate. Crap.
Alright. Breathing, I'm breathing. No, don't think about breathing. Just breathe.
Here I am just breathing. I'm not thinking about breathing at all!
I bet monks don't curse in meditation. Let's try again.
No thoughts, no thoughts, no thoughts. I will not have any thoughts! I will not have any thoughts! Oh, crap! This is a thought!
Next stupid thought I have I'm going to take a baseball bat to it and beat it until it's a bloody pulp.
I wonder if I left the oven on.
ATTACK!! DIE, THOUGHT, DIE!! HAHAHAHAHA!!
Hm. Maybe I should work on the nonviolence part of this, too.
And on it goes.
But according to the bald guy who tried to teach me the single time he did, I shouldn't be trying to push thoughts away. I should just see the thought and go, "whee! I'm a novice with a thought flying through my head! Bye, little thought!" Or maybe that's not quite it, but you don't beat yourself up over it. You just let the thought pass you by, waving it past, and not clinging to it as a failure or success. It's just a breeze that passes through your mind.
I was recently thinking that this is a key to getting over almost any addiction or temptation. The more you have to fight it, obsessing over how powerful it is and how strong you must be to resist it, the more it continues to have a hold on you. Don't kick and scream and yell when your temptation is there. Just observe that there's still some draw and then let it go past you. This seems relevant in some way for virtually all our faults, be they alcohol, gambling, smoking, sex, even personality flaws like arrogance, priggishness, or cowardice.
Just learn to notice. Oh, I'm being an arrogant a-hole again. Stop. And go again. We all have our flaws great and small that are simply a part of who we are. They don't ever disappear, but maybe we can learn not to dwell on them.
It reminds me of one of my favorite lyrics from the band Lambchop and goes something like:
"Learning not to demonstrate
our asinine and callous traits.
It can take some practice.