When I first tried meditating several years ago, I remember struggling between trying to still my body and my mind. At first, I found it incredibly difficult and physically uncomfortable to sit still, which was then followed by my many thoughts, “My knee really hurts . . . My back aches . . . I am feeling restless . . . I am uncomfortable,” which only made my physical discomfort more deeply felt. Other days, I would have no problem physically sitting still, but my mind was the source of my discomfort, refusing to be still. Over the years, I have learned that it is best to “make friends” with my discomfort. I try not to struggle against whatever is distracting me, or figure it out or beat myself up for having these distractions. I use them, instead, as an important part of my meditation. I try to approach my discomfort or distraction with a sense of curiosity and interest, no longer trying to do anything with it. I simply observe what I am experiencing with a friendly, loving and gentle attention. I look at my experience, whatever that may be, as an opportunity for self-awareness, rather than an obstacle to it.
It would be nice to report that each time I sit down to meditate I find myself enjoying twenty minutes of sheer bliss. What I have found, instead, is that each meditation is different. Somedays I have an ache or a pain, some days my mind is extremely busy, and other days my mind and my body are peaceful and still. In essence, this is what the practice is all about. Learning to sit and simply get to know myself, to have some sense of control over where I place my attention, and when I feel out of control, to simply let it be and watch without becoming overwhelmed by it.
Just like my meditation practice, my days are not all the same, and certainly not always peaceful – – – people can annoy me, my children don’t always listen to me, my house is not always clean, my back sometimes aches, people close to me get sick, and the evening news continues to report great tragedies around the globe. I find that I can now look at all of these things with a sense of presence, openness and curiosity, just like I practice on my cushion each morning. Instead of getting swept away by what is happening, overwhelmed by it, or trying to figure it out, I can connect to my own inner stillness and allow myself to feel whatever comes up fully (anger, sadness, frustration and, yes, great joy) and just be with it. All this from simply sitting on my cushion for a few minutes a day.
On to Week 2!
This blog is part of Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness Meditation Challenge. In the month of February, you can join over 12,000 people around the world who have committed to sit each day and give meditation a try! You can learn more about the challenge, join in and read what people are saying by clicking here.