Students who take Wildmind’s online courses have the opportunity to talk about their practice and get personal feedback from the teacher. The following is a recent exchange from one of our meditation courses.
A student asks: After meditating for a year, my practice is starting to feel boring. How do I get my “beginner’s mind” spark back?
Sunada replies: Congratulations on keeping up a regular practice for a year! It’s clearly become a part of your life, and that’s great. And even though it doesn’t feel good to watch one’s beginner’s mind slip away, in one sense I think this is a positive sign. It probably means you’ve progressed to a new level. You’re coming up against some new challenges that are invitations to take your practice to a deeper and more meaningful place.
So from what you’ve told me, you’ve tried taking meditation courses from different teachers and read several books. And now that you’ve finished them all, you’re feeling anxious about not having someone or something to guide you and keep you motivated. I’m also inferring that the courses and books haven’t really rekindled that spark for you.
I get the sense that the next challenge for you is not to look for new things to learn from others, but to begin to connect with your innate spark and wisdom within. And I think you already have all the knowledge that you need for now. Yes, courses and books are helpful for learning about meditation techniques. I suppose it’s analogous to learning how to use woodworking tools in a carpentry course. We can learn how to use the tools in general situations, but to get to the next level, it helps to make those tools our own. To get to something that’s more personally satisfying, we need to think about what we’re inspired to build, understand the nature of the tools and raw materials we have on hand, and skillfully pull everything together to bring something with our own stamp into being. You’re the only person who can do this with the raw material that is yourself.
So here are some questions to reflect on: What inspired you initially when you started meditation? Or think of a specific moment when you were at your best — and what qualities from that moment would you like to have more consistently? Do those questions give you some ideas about what you might want to build? And with your current knowledge of meditation, what specific things could you do today to take one small step forward?
It’s OK if you don’t really know the answers. Take a guess. Try something out. There are no wrong answers. Much of what I do is trial and error. It’s how I learn. I try some things, I get some results that may be helpful or not. Each step I take gives me a little bit more knowledge about myself, what works or doesn’t work for me, how the world responds to my words and actions, etc. This is all fuel for self-confidence, self-knowledge, and further growth.
Of course, you WILL want to pick up another book or consult with a teacher from time to time to take in new ideas and learn new skills. I’m not advising you to throw all that out forever. What I am suggesting though, is not to look to something or someone outside yourself to provide you with inspiration and motivation. To truly have a meditation practice that’s transformative, it’s necessary to connect with a deeper level of self-confidence and self-knowledge that intuitively knows what’s right for you and takes pleasure in moving you forward. You’ve given yourself such a tremendous gift by establishing your meditation practice thus far, and you’re now at the point where it can really come alive for you. I encourage you to keep looking deeper within — because that’s where your best teacher can be found.
Editor’s note: The student with whom this exchange took place has granted permission to publish this journal entry, and will remain anonymous. Wildmind treats all student journals as strictly private, and never allows outside parties to read them without explicit permission from the student.
Yes, I agree that using meditation to work on ourselves is one of the hardest things we’ll ever do! I certainly didn’t mean to imply that all this is easy. But nothing we do for ourselves is ever a waste of time. It can take a very long time to see changes in ourselves, and I know that’s what makes it hard and discouraging. I think what gets us discouraged is if we set ourselves up with big goals and expectations that have too far a horizon to reach. I would encourage you to think of VERY SMALL steps you could take that you’d have a strong likelihood of being able to accomplish. For example, if you wanted to work on self-confidence, maybe a place to start is to become more mindful of yourself. You could them set a goal of eating your breakfast tomorrow morning very mindfully, and observing what’s different as a result. Small goals, small successes. It may not feel like much, but it IS a step forward. By having small successes, we can feel good about what we DID accomplish and better able to try again with something else. Many small steps add up to big ones. It’s the only way I can think of to build our self-confidence. And as I said in my article, you’re the only one who can do this for yourself.
i know what this lady is talkin bout here, go deeper altho its not easy takes a lot of self confidence to try this out on one’s own- am i wastin my time blah blah blah….but its the only way forward meditation is i not easy in fact its one of the hardest things you will ever do…
Good comment, Sunada.
I’d add that even “eating breakfast mindfully” might be too big a goal at times. It might be better to take a meal one spoonful at a time and to aim simply to be as mindful as possible with each spoonful, while recognizing that the mind is *bound* to wander.
Good point, Bodhipaksa. That’s an even better suggestion!