Wednesday, August 25, 2010

meditation: you can't do it wrong

Do you have an uneasy relationship with the practice of meditation? Spiritual teachers have said that it is the most important practice you can undertake. Yoga asanas, originally, had no other purpose than to prepare the yogi to be able to sit comfortably in meditation. So meditation must be very important, right?

Part of the disconnect for me is when the value of meditation is described as a step on the path to enlightenment. I've never had enlightenment as a personal goal, partly because of the way samadhi is described. Suddenly, you're free from all desires, free from attachment to loved ones . . . sounds so dry and unattractive.

Much more interesting to the average person, I think, is the idea that meditation can bring you to a place of equilibrium and clarity, ease feelings of depression and anxiety, calm the mind and heart and bring you to a place where you can more clearly hear your higher self speak to you.

But, there's always the nagging uncertainty about what is supposed to be happening as we try to come to a state of meditation.

Today, in a monthly newsletter from Bodhi Spiritual Center in Chicago, the following quote struck home from Bodhi minister-in-training Darrell Jones:
"I often . . . find myself amused at how often we (myself included) get caught up in needing to do meditation 'right'. There are many techniques and ways to meditate, however, the only 'wrong' way to meditate is to not do it. Ah, the simplicity and power of that statement! The only wrong way to meditate is not to meditate."

Later in the same article, he goes on to say:
"If we think we will reach a point of 'no thoughts' or a mind as quiet as a room with no one in it, we are doing ourselves a disservice and setting ourselves up for failure."

Jones gives us permission to just do it. To realize that an active, unquiet mind is proof that we are, indeed, meditating. That meditating is a process of learning to be still. That once the body becomes still, the mind automatically starts working like crazy to compensate. And that this is normal.

He suggests, as I've suggested in this blog, that you start with just five minutes. Actually, I think I suggested that three minutes is a great start. Start with a practice that is easy enough that you won't be tempted to skip it.

But, above all, show yourself compassion and know that you are succeeding and reaping the benefits just by showing up. Just by sitting still and witnessing your thoughts rather than becoming caught up in them. Just by, time after time, letting go of a thought that you've gotten stuck on during your meditation. Every time you let go of a thought, feel good! This is meditation.

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