“Stage Zero” – the importance of a sense of purpose
One thing that you can add to your preparation for meditation in stage zero is the cultivation of a sense of purpose. As you go through your body, relaxing, and as you become aware of what you are taking into meditation, you might become aware that there are certain things that you particularly need to work on.
You might notice, for example, that there is a lack of joy and inspiration in your experience. Maybe you have a tendency to get annoyed right now. Or perhaps it’s just that your mind is a little restless and needs to be calmed down. It’s good to develop a clear intention of what you want to achieve in such circumstances. You can set yourself the goal of finding a way to enjoy your practice more, or of calming your mind.
You can take this awareness of purpose into the other stages of your practice, monitoring from time to time what progress you’ve made in moving towards your goals. Perhaps the first approach you take doesn’t seem to be working, and you need to try another method. Or perhaps what you are doing works very well – perhaps even too well! You may try to calm your restless mind and be so successful that your mind becomes rather dull and sleepy. At that point you may wish to change your purpose for a more suitable one – in this case perhaps you could adopt the goal of balancing relaxation and energy.
Having goals like these can revolutionize your meditation practice. It’s all too easy for our meditation practice to become stale and mechanical, as we unmindfully use some technique that was once appropriate but isn’t now.
Having clear goals is another way of bringing more mindfulness into our practice. It helps us to become not only aware of what emotional, mental, and physical states are present in any given moment, but keeps us alive to where we are going and, very importantly, whether what we are doing is taking us to where we want to go.