I’ve been making a concerted effort in 2016 to deepen and become more consistent in my meditation practice.
It has not been going well.
Trying to find time to practice – even just 20 minutes each day – is turning out to be a bigger challenge than I would have expected. It’s not that I don’t have 20 minutes, but too often I don’t want to make the effort to get – and stay – quiet.
Ironically, from the outside my life probably doesn’t look all that “noisy.” I don’t have the hustle and bustle of a family or a pet or a TV blaring.
But the inside of my head kind of looks like a NASA space mission control center. It’s busy, controlled and very, very tense, as if lives hang in the balance with every decision.
So going to sit quietly, to just observe what comes up, seems like a dangerous lapse in protocol for my busy mind.
Plus, there’s the whole being-told-what-to-do thing. I’m not rebellious by nature, but I am stubborn. When someone asks me to help, I’m all in. But tell me I have to do something and I become ornery as a mule, unwilling and likely to bite.
I find myself reacting to “meditate every day” as a petulant child would, dragging my feet and making a ridiculously big deal about it.
Ironically, when I’m in the mood to meditate, I’m a champ. I can sit for an hour with barely a nose wiggle, gently returning to the breath when my mind wanders. But meditating every day is turning out to be a more difficult challenge.
The point, of course, isn’t about meditation at all. It’s about, in the words of dharma teacher Tara Brach, “learning to stay.” Learning to be in the moment, good or bad, to be present with what is, and not caught up in the flights of fancy, lingering emotions, or reactive habits that can distort our reality.
It’s about learning to stay with pain or anger to fully understand it, and even perhaps move through it, rather than distracting ourselves or lashing out randomly.
It’s about learning to stay with joy, rather than tainting it with preemptive sadness because you know that joy can’t last.
It’s about letting go of the fantasy that if you just stay vigilant enough, everything will be OK.
It’s about sitting with the fear of what might come up during practice, the darker emotions that only surface when the waters of your mind become still.
It’s about being in the moment and not in the story you’re going to tell about it later.
It’s not easy. I fail at it often. But, they don’t call it “practice” for nothing and I am nothing if not a good student. And so I’ll practice some more, hoping this time it becomes a little easier to stay.
All pictures taken by me with an iPhone over the past few weeks. I’ve been noticing the natural backlighting of the evening sun. What this has to do with meditation is anyone’s guess, but a few pictures always help the blog post go down…