Jan 25, 2013
One quarter of the way to 100 days :)
Sometimes we see signs of progress in our meditation, like times the mind becomes much calmer, or when we feel an unusual level of joy. It’s good to have these “road signs,” but it’s best not to grasp after attaining anything. Sometimes the mind is like a toddler asking “are we there yet?” We have to remind ourselves to be grown-up drivers; the journey takes as long as it takes, and so we just stay focused on the bit of road we’re driving on now.
Progress (unlike driving) isn’t linear, though. We’ll tend, over time, to see these signs appear, and …
Jan 24, 2013
We’re almost a quarter of the way through the challenge!
One thing I’ve been working on is cultivating more lovingkindness in daily life. I find that if I don’t deliberately do this, then my mind often has a bit of a hard and brittle “edge” to it that can come out in irritability and even in anger.
Lovingkindness meditation helps, but it’s not enough. There are still live, unexploded reserves of anger inside my being, and they need to be defused.
Practicing lovingkindness in daily life is like sending in the bomb squad.
So as I’m driving, or walking, or standing in line in a store, and even often when …
Jan 23, 2013
A lot of energy is wasted in considering whether our meditations are “good meditations” or “bad meditations,” especially for relative beginners.
For most people, a good meditation is one that is easy. Things go according to plan, or better! The mind isn’t hard to work with. There aren’t too many distractions. We don’t feel any strongly unpleasant mental states such as anxiety or resentment. We may positively enjoy the meditation. A “bad meditation” is the opposite.
And we can end up feeling a bit demoralized when we experience these “bad meditations.” We create stories about how we’re not good at meditating, or the meditation practice isn’t the right one for …
Jan 22, 2013
Have you ever had the experience that you’ve been experiencing distractedness in meditation, and you return from a distraction only to find that — in your absence — a state of joy and calmness has been created for you? That was my experience tonight. A state of joy and calm had been created without my doing anything consciously to bring it about.
At the same time I noticed this I found that, as has been happening a lot lately, an urge appeared to “just rest.” I needed to get out of the way, stop trying to do anything, and allow the meditation to happen.
I see this as …
Jan 21, 2013
You know when you’re counting your breaths in the Mindfulness of Breathing, and you manage to keep the numbers going continually and follow the sensations of the breathing, but you also have a continuous stream of thoughts going on? You probably get very annoyed by this. But you shouldn’t.
The continuity of awareness that accompanies the counting is valuable, and it’s part of what we call “access concentration,” which is where you’re on the verge of a “flow state” in meditation where everything becomes much easier and distractions fade away. So this “multitasking” stage (noticing the breathing, counting, thinking) is actually a helpful thing. We just need to take …
Jan 20, 2013
The other day when I was meditating, I was really beset with thinking for 35 minutes, because of being tired and being overwhelmed at work, and probably also because it was late in the evening. I don’t freak out about that kind of thing, but it did feel like a struggle.
And then for the last five minutes, something really interesting happened. I just gave up — in a very positive way. Out of the blue, I found I just wanted to let the mind rest. And I was able to just sit there, in what seemed like a slightly low energy but calm and content state. It …
Jan 19, 2013
There’s a lot of sickness going on at the moment, this being cold and flu season, so the question arises, what should you do about your meditation practice if you’re sick?
It’s tempting to “take the day off.” After all, that’s what we often do with work when we’re feeling under the weather.
But that’s not the approach that the Tibetans take. When they’re sick they do more, not less, meditation. The reason is that they assume, rightly or wrongly, that the illness is the result of previous bad karma, and they want to offset that with karmically healthy activities. So they meditate more. And actually meditating has been …
Jan 18, 2013
Sometimes people have trouble wishing a person well when that person has done or said something they disapprove of, or that was downright wrong, because it seems like they’re “rewarding” that person. But not cultivating lovingkindness to a person you find difficult is, to use an old expression) cutting off your nose to spite your face. Our lovingkindness helps us to be happier.
It’s worth remembering that the lovingkindness we send people isn’t a “reward for good behavior”. It may help them indirectly or directly, or it may not help them at all, but we always benefit. Our lovingkindness may benefit the other person because we’re no longer as …
Jan 17, 2013
A common problem people have in a challenge like this is the “inner narrator” who keeps up a running commentary on how your meditation is going. This is particularly a problem when we’re going to be reporting on our practice to others, as we do in Wildmind’s Google+ Community.
One thing that I find very effective is saying “It can wait.” This is what I’ve called “The Mantra for the 21st Century.” This statement affirms that the commentary might be useful, but also affirms that the present moment is not the appropriate time for it.
Listening helps. It’s not possible to listen to what’s going on around you …
Jan 16, 2013
I encourage my meditation students to set up “mindfulness triggers,” by which I mean reminders to practice mindfulness. One of my mindfulness triggers is walking toward a pedestrian crossing, when I remind myself to have no expectations that the approaching cars will stop. Another is closing my car door and walking to my office, when I remember to walk meditatively in order to arrive at Wildmind’s World Headquarters mindfully and in a state of lovingkindness.
But some of us need mindfulness triggers for our mindfulness triggers, meaning that we read about these kinds of pracices and even plan to set them up, but then in the heat of daily …