Have you had the thought yet, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Maybe you’ve had this one, “I can’t do this. Everyone else can but not me!”
You may know this one well, “What’s the use?”
Occasionally some of you may even think, “I’ve got this down. I’ll be enlightened by the third class!”
If any of these or similar thoughts are strutting their stuff, trying to get you to buy-in, then you are on the right track! The first few weeks of practice are for getting acquainted with your mindfulness practice. Learning how you approach it and what your particular obstacles are – this is more valuable than gold.
Often the first few weeks of a new meditation practice can be unusually difficult. You might feel, “This stress reduction thing is causing me more stress!!!” You may find that the mind is often a stubborn and unwilling partner when it comes to changing how we use it (or more precisely, changing it from how it uses us). So if you are having some difficulty this week, that is NORMAL – remember it is abnormal to stop and come back to this moment mindfully – even more abnormal not to be lost in the mindless chatter and narration about everything and anything except what is going on right here in front of us!
Kindness is most important for our task. Remember, you are learning a skill, and one that may be the most important skill you will ever learn. Treat it as such. Regard any difficulty you may be facing as it is: an opportunity to get to know well those obstacles that have gotten in the way of your happiness and well-being for years, maybe even your entire life.
The practice of happiness and well-being is simple but not easy. So, above all, keep at it with a kind attitude towards yourself, including your failures and successes. Here are a few more suggestions that you may find helpful if you are struggling (and even if you aren’t):
1. First, some of you will flat out have a difficult time simply finding the time to sit in silence with your breath each day. If this is you, not to worry – you can practice right there in that moment where you and your resistance meet. Instead of fighting or making a big deal about having to “sit at such and such a time” or “sitting in the correct posture” or whatever may hinder you, instead use that moment of resistance to simply come to your breath.
That’s right, just practice right were you are by taking one refreshing, mindful breath. You could be watching television, or sitting at your computer; you could be cooking or brushing your teeth; any situation that doesn’t seem like ‘meditation.’ In fact the word/idea, “meditation,” can be a problem. It would be helpful to change the word to something that resembles what you are actually doing.
The acronym “STOP,” which I learned from Diana Winston at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center can be a useful tool when you find that you’re struggling, or judging yourself for struggling with “meditation” (it’s also good for when you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious during your day):
Take one mindful breath
Observe what is happening in that moment
Proceed with whatever you were doing.
Here is an idea of how to “Observe” from meditation master, Sayadaw U Tejaniya:
Meditating is acknowledging and observing whatever happens
—whether pleasant or unpleasant—in a relaxed way without judgment.
That includes resistance to meditating as well.
2. If you are the type who is able to sit with your breath for a few minutes each day or every other day, but you don’t know if you are doing it correctly, or nothing much seems to be happening, then refer to Sayadaw’s suggestion below:
Meditating is watching and waiting patiently with awareness and
understanding. Meditation is NOT trying to experience something
you have read or heard about.
Trust the simple technology of being with the sensation of the breath and coming back to it whenever you notice that your attention has wandered. The rest will come from this. You will learn all the fundamentals as we go, so take advantage being a novice now.
3. Finally, if you are the type who is diligent in whatever you do and you are practicing each day – good for you. However, be aware of striving, of trying to go beyond what your skill is at this time. Remember, One step at a time. One breath at a time. As Sayadaw U Tejaniya says:
Just pay attention to the present moment.
Don’t get lost in thoughts about the past [or come back as soon as you notice you’re lost].
Don’t get carried away by thoughts about the future [including thoughts about the future of meditation practice – and come back as soon as you notice you’re carried away].
What is important is that you do it, not what you think about the results. They will come.
That’s it for now. if you have any questions, just ask.
Keep up the good work!