Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Mindfulness of Breathing

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Dealing with ups and downs

rapidsDiane, one of my students, reported the following:

“This morning it was not as easy to concentrate; I had to make more of an effort to keep myself on track. I handled the situation quite easily, noticing that I was more distracted and being aware that it would take a bit more work today to keep myself out of distraction. I did not judge myself or get scared that my practice is falling apart, just acknowledged that it was not one of my better days and went on from there.”

Your meditation practice will always have its ups and downs. This is inevitable in developing any skill. You’ll have good days and bad days, and at first both good and bad experiences may seem to arrive randomly, as gifts – welcome or unwelcome – of the gods. At first this can be dispiriting. You think you’re doing so well; your meditation was so calm and enjoyable yesterday, and here you are today struggling to count to three and feeling that it’s all hopeless.

Diane’s approach to her ups and downs is exemplary. Instead of getting lost in the distracted, reactive states of self-pity or fear, she simply observed what was happening, realizing that the conditions in her mind, for whatever reason, had changed, and that the kind of effort she would have to make had also changed. Change is unavoidable. Life gives us that challenge. And it isn’t helpful to us to mourn the inevitable or to fight change. We have to learn to embrace change, accept that it is a part of our lives, and then respond as creatively as we can: no condemnation, no self-recriminations, just a patient sense of working with whatever comes up.

As Diane went on to say: “I guess I always got the good and the bad, and perhaps now just have more awareness of my state of mind whatever it may be. I remind myself to be especially gentle with myself, that the ‘bad’ is really no different than the ‘good’, it just is.”

This is an excellent observation. Meditation is, above all, the art of dealing with what is.

Comments

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Comment from Caroline
Time: August 20, 2008, 5:39 pm

Meditating using the mindfulness of breathing has lowered my stress levels considerably and enabled me to fall asleep and sleep deeply. Thank you; this site really is a life enhancer!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 20, 2008, 6:28 pm

Hi Caroline,

I’m really delighted to hear that what we teach here has been helpful to you. Thanks for taking the time to share.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from eangketola
Time: August 9, 2011, 10:28 am

hi.i have panic disorder when i stay alone.so how can i practice your meditation?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 9, 2011, 2:15 pm

It’s hard to say. It may be that if you’re listening to a CD, you won’t feel alone. Or perhaps you could meditate with someone else, or be meditating, listening on headphones while someone else is present. Of you could find a meditation center and sit with others.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from George Carlos
Time: April 21, 2013, 12:12 am

I have been meditating for almost 2 months now, and in the last 2 weeks I have been having a lot of difficulty staying focused and I feel as though have to force my breath again , everyday I have been practicing this week. I think it is probably because I am expecting to have a good meditation every time . What can I do about this? And how can I let go of this expectation?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 21, 2013, 9:08 am

You could try dropping a phrase into your mind from time to time during meditation: “It is what it is.” Just drop that phrase in once in a while, but especially when you have a sense that there’s any expectation. Or when your mind starts turning toward what you expect to happen in the future, drop in the phrase “But right now … right now…” and return your focus to your present moment experience. Take care of the present moment with care and attention, and your future experience will take care of itself.

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