My meditation journey has been full of bumps, detours and u-turns. I often have to remind myself that this is a practice, a training, and that it’s supposed to be “perfectly imperfect.”
Feelings of guilt or shame only make things worse, so it’s important that meditation is not another thing just to cross off the to-do list. It is supposed to be time to “not do,” a time to “just be.” Time to let go of control, surrender to the present moment, relax, and enjoy the simplicity of being. Sounds amazing, right? But it’s doable!
Clear, honest motivation
At the start of my meditation session, I take a few minutes to connect with a clear, heartfelt motivation. We practice yoga because …, we eat healthy because…, we seek a partner because… and we meditate because…. Taking on a new habit requires that we contemplate the benefits and make a deep connection with it: “I really want to try this out because…”
When we meditate we are training the mind to undo our harmful habits. One of those habits is having expectations of things going our way. If I do X, I should definitely get Y. Well, that is the perfect path to disappointment! We are training the mind, so, like any training, it takes practice. But the good news is that this particular practice requires that you do nothing. That might sound easy, but breaking the habit of constantly doing is a process. We live in a culture of instant gratification and can easily get bored and impatient, just wanting to keep moving. So it’s good to give yourself some simple rewards. For example, feel good that you actually did it (even if you were not able to calm your mind). Trying to just follow one breath fully and take each breath as a new mini meditation session, reminding yourself that meditation is about being present with whatever is going on in the moment. So if you have a busy mind, that’s what’s going on, and just recognizing that is already a result from that meditation. Trying to meditate is better than not trying at all.
Relax, relax, relax
Meditation is easy, relaxing is difficult. My teacher Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche always reminds me that relaxing is key. There’s a saying in Tibet that if one is able to completely relax, one can achieve enlightenment just by doing that. Once you settle into the posture, relax your body. Once you connect with your breath, then relax your mind. Once you relax your mind, enjoy your breath and the subtle movements of your body and mind –– the rhythm of life.
Recall the benefits
There will be distractions, boredom, restlessness, struggle. That’s how it should be. We are training to overcome our reactions to the wide range of states of mind. But when we train our mind to settle into itself, we start to enjoy our mind for what it is. Then emotions and negative thoughts have less control over our lives, we can appreciate each breath as being full of possibilities, and we may discover that what we are looking for is right there.