When I first ‘tried’ to meditate I thought I was terrible at it. I thought I couldn’t do it.
I was thinking what I have now come to know, what almost everybody thinks when they first ‘try’ to meditate.
‘Why is this so hard for me’
‘Everybody else can do it, they all look like Buddha himself’
‘This is so uncomfortable, I can’t possibly stay here for an hour’
‘Keep your back straight’ they say
‘Keep your eyes closed’ they say
‘Quiet the mind’ they say
For the life of me, I couldn’t understand how I could ever do this meditation thing.
But as I was in a Buddhist monastery project for a month and a half I kind of had to or at least try.
One of these days I had a ‘breakdown’. Of course, everybody has a different perception of what breakdown means but I like to use this word to describe the times when the walls I build up around my emotions and my heart, break down, and I allow myself to recognize and fully feel whats going on inside me.
So, one day, I had a breakdown, I cried for hours talked for hours about things that I had been clinging to for years. The very next morning I sat down to meditate for the hour and didn’t move from the second I put my but on the ground!
Nothing had changed, my legs still hurt unbelievably, there were still ants the size of birds climbing all over me, I was still burning up in the Thai sun and my back still hurt. At the same time, everything had changed!
I was aware of all of these things but they didn’t matter. The biggest difference was my mind had been, well, I guess recognized for what it was.
I had seen. Once I had seen, there was no going back.
That was three years ago and since then meditation has been a vital part of my life. I meditate almost every day. I won’t pretend that it’s an easy everyday part of my routine because there are days when I don’t meditate and there are also weeks where it slips from my routine completely.
I used to make myself feel terrible for this like I wasn’t on my path or wasn’t good enough because I ‘couldnt even meditate every day’.
Just like in my first experiences with meditation, I had been so identified with my mind, believing and following every little story it played for me. I realized that these sort of thoughts were not in any way going to help me meditate daily. In fact the opposite. These thoughts spiral into ‘you cant do it, might as well stop trying’.
The irony of it is that by meditating you learn to see that negative self-talk for what it is, just a thought.
The mind will try it’s best to drive you away from meditation, because being in meditation, the mind is not required. The mind has no place in the present moment which is what meditation is. To be, feel, accept the present moment, exactly as it is not as you would like it to be. No judgment, no projections just being.
Meditation is our nature. There is not a trick you must know in order to be able to meditate, you don’t have to wipe your mind of all thoughts, there is no perfect way to do it, no right or wrong, believing so only limits you and gives you reasons why you ‘can’t do it’.
In my experience, I have come to see that meditation is simple awareness. Awareness of our true self.
I have let go of all of the expectations and rules I read and learned about certain techniques and opinions on meditation.
Not to discredit any of these things at all, the research and studies into meditation are fascinating and vital in ensuring meditation becomes a part of the education system, businesses, rehabilitation, and everywhere else too!
The variety of techniques can be beneficial. Whether you sit in silence, listen to chanting, sit in lotus pose or stand up it is totally up to you. I tend to mix it up depending on how I am feeling at the time.
In my personal practice, I found by paying too much attention to the finer details of each technique, the mind gets sucked in and starts to get consumed by ‘right or wrong’. Before you even know it those thoughts have popped up again.
‘Ugh, I missed my breath, I can’t even do something as simple as count can I?!?’
‘I don’t know all the words to these chants, I have such a bad memory’
‘I don’t know how to make up my own mantra, I’m not good at this spirituality stuff’
‘I can’t sit here without moving, what’s wrong with my body?!?’
Understanding a technique is mental. Being in meditation is not mental or intellectual, it is experiential.
Awareness is they key in my opinion. If you are ‘trying’ to do anything when you’re in meditation, then your are not in meditation. Don’t try to get rid of your thoughts, they will come and they will go. Don’t try to get all the words of the mantra right, sometimes you will sometimes you won’t. Don’t try to force your body to the point of pain and judge yourself for it, some days your body will be comfortable in lotus and some days it won’t.
Like this, meditation teaches us to accept what is, in life. This, is how I have learned the importance and benefits of meditation.
If we are ‘trying’ we are fighting against what is. If we are judging what’s happening as right or wrong we are creating problems for ourselves.
Some days you feel happy some days you feel sad. Life can seem hard and life can seem easy. At times work can be exciting, at times it can be boring. Relationships can be fulfilling, they can be draining.
The sun rises, the sun sets. We see a crescent moon then we see a full moon. The ocean rises and falls as do the waves. All things change. The simple law of nature.
Meditation brings us back to ourselves, we remember this truth. We remember that everything changes, everything is impermanent, that includes the thoughts that pop up and tell you that you can’t meditate.
They will leave, the same way they came.