August 24, 2011

Everyday Mindfulness: Getting Nowhere With Meditation.

Photo: Bruce

The third article in a series of four from Everyday Mindfulness. Check out the others here and here.

I am sitting with some dharma friends at the Inner Space in downtown Colorado Springs.

We are doing our usual Sunday morning shamatha, or calm abiding, meditation practice. We sit or forty minutes, but thirty minutes in I realize I have no idea what I am doing. I have completely forgotten how to meditate.

Shamatha instructions are simple. Deceptively simple.

Sit in the seven-point posture.
Bring all awareness and attention to a chosen object, usually the breath.
When you notice that the mind has wandered, gently bring it back to the object.

But now, the breath isn’t enough. I am restless, dissatisfied. I want to know what I am doing and why I am doing it. I can’t just let myself be in the present moment. So I worry that I’m doing it wrong, that after three years of sitting, my mindfulness is a joke.

But, then I remember what a meditation instructor told me once.

This practice is not easy, he said. After twenty years you may notice that your concentration has improved.

That wisdom has stuck with me and I call it to mind whenever I feel like my practice is going nowhere. It reminds me, actually, that there’s nowhere to go.

I look up at the clock. Ten minutes left. I stop worrying so much. There is no good meditation practice. There is no bad meditation practice. I settle back onto my cushion and bring my awareness back to my breath, thoughts still arising but now not unfriendly. I sit until the bell finally rings.


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