Day 100: Just do it

April 10, 2013

every-damn-daySo, today is the 100th Day of Wildmind’s Meditation Challenge. Actually, for me this is my 185th straight day of meditating, as far as I can tell. That’s one of the longest stretches of daily meditation that I’ve done in my life, but my goal, frankly, is to keep meditating daily until I’m dust.

But since the first of January this year, a bunch of us have been encouraging each other to stick to meditating daily. We “hit the ground sitting” on January 1, and this is the 100th day of the year, and of the challenge.

Here are a few lessons learned:

  • My “mantra” really seems to work for many people. “
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What animal trainers can teach you about establishing a daily meditation practice

March 27, 2013

Sea lion with ballYesterday someone posted a comment about their “failure” regarding a 100 Day Challenge (not Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge, however):

I’ve stuck to my challenge only once — ONCE! — in the past 12 days. MASSIVE failure.

Sorry. It wasn’t a “failure.” It was a “MASSIVE failure.” Yikes!

My immediate thought was that this labeling is very, very counter-productive. This particular person wasn’t trying to set up a daily meditation practice, but the principle is the same. If you aim to do something like meditate every day, and only manage to do it one day out of 12, why not regard that as a small success, rather than as a failure (massive, or otherwise)? After … Read more »

Falling through suffering

March 21, 2013

featherRecently someone wrote to me and said that although he’d been making great progress in his meditation and had been experiencing at times profound peace and intense clarity, his meditation recently had become very turbulent. There can be many reasons for this, of course, but one that came to mind was when we need to shift gear in our meditation practice.

This turbulence may well have been a call to go deeper. We can get used to having a generally more positive experience, and get used to a certain ease in our practice. The mind is generally calmer, and we’re more joyful and experience more kindness. But we can become unused to experiencing difficulties, and … Read more »

Gratitude, creativity, and the “boys in the basement”

March 11, 2013

Glass lamp in a black backgroundLast night I sat without a timer, or rather using a stick of incense to time my sit. Recently I bought some rather lovely Shoyeido Nokiba (Moss Garden) incense, which has long sticks that burn for 50 minutes. It’s a nice alternative to using my iPad as a timer. Sometimes it’s nice not to have electronics between me and my little altar.

The Boys in the Basement offered up some interesting experiences. The “Boys in the Basement” is a term I borrowed from the novelist Stephen King. He uses it to refer to the creative powers of the mind. I write quite a lot, and the term resonated with me very strongly. Writing barely happens … Read more »

Having a meditation toolkit

March 6, 2013

100 Day Meditation ChallengeOne of my online students wrote:

I find that when a dark thought or uncomfortable feeling comes up during meditation, my habitual reaction is to very quickly label it “thinking” and then return to my breath, which feels very much like I am suppressing my emotions and feelings.

And my reply was: This is a great thing to have learned about yourself. It seems that you innately know, with your inner wisdom, that this kind of suppression isn’t the way you want to live your life, and in fact with mindfulness we should be prepared to give our darker feelings room to breathe — or at least some of them.

That brings up the question … Read more »

Your anxiety deserves your love

February 24, 2013

100 day meditation challenge 055All of us experience anxiety — even meditation teachers. I was nervous the other day driving down to the airport on my way to lead a retreat. I’d left it a bit late, and thoughts like “what if the traffic’s bad in Boston and I end up missing the flight?” kept popping into my head.

We all have to learn strategies for dealing with our fears.

You can think of there being an “anxiety module” in the brain. It’s the amygdala — a rather ancient part of our wiring. It’s always scanning, looking for “threats” — for things that might go wrong. When we’re in an anxious state, the amygdala is working overtime, and it’s … Read more »

“I meditate every day. It’s just what I do. It’s part of who I am.”

February 19, 2013

100 day meditation challenge 050A lot of people intend to meditate every day. But not many people actually meditate every day.

Good intentions are hard to sustain, aren’t they? That’s why I came up with my affirmation: “I meditate every day. It’s just what I do. It’s part of who I am.”

I realized that if I wanted to meditate absolutely every day it was never going to work if I “intended to” meditate. I needed to just do it. And in order to just do it there had to be an absence of choice, in a positive sense. Whenever there’s any process of deciding “will I or won’t I meditate today” then there’s inevitably going to be a … Read more »

Coming back to “the big, loud, present, bright world”

February 14, 2013

100 day meditation challenge 045It’s Day 45 of our 100 Day Meditation Challenge.

After I’d asked one of my meditation students to try a mindful eating exercise, she wrote about how during the exercise the food became “her everything” and said that this reminded her “of how life looks when I am able to shut out the whirring thoughts and just pay attention to the now — the big, loud, present, bright world comes forth when before it was in the background.”

Her mentioning how “the big, loud, present, bright world comes forth when before it was in the background” reminds me of times that I’ve been reading outdoors, and after a period of complete immersion in the world … Read more »

Listening as a meditation practice

February 14, 2013

100 day meditation challenge 045For Day 45 of Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge I wanted to post something I wrote in response to one of our participants who found it useful to set a bell to ring every so often while she was meditating.

What I’ve found is that when I’m listening very intently to something, I can’t also do much (if any) thinking. So listening to a gong can be very calming.

When we’re listening we’re also being very receptive and open, and opposed to all the “doing” we normally, well, do. That “doing,” if were not being very mindful, tends to make us close off to our experience, so that we can become very willful. The ideal … Read more »

Day 40 of Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge

February 9, 2013

100 day meditation challenge 040I’m sure you’ve noticed an increased tendency to be irritable and cranky when you’re tired. This is a valuable area for practice, and I have a tip for you.

I think one thing we should take on board is how physiological our feelings and our ability to regulate our emotions are. When we’re tired, our brain’s biochemistry is running out of “the good stuff” and we tend to feel a bit down and a bit more vulnerable and sensitive. Our feelings are on more of a hair trigger. And it’s harder to be mindful of our emotions and to keep ourselves in a positive state.

When we don’t take all that into account we almost … Read more »