Updated On — 11th Oct, 2022
We have been practicing the opposite of what meditation asks of us for so many years, no wonder it is so hard to meditate every day. We often get frustrated and give up.
I am often asked why is hard to meditate every day? Despite the utter simplicity of the practice itself, why is it so difficult to consistently sit down and meditate?
One of the best answers I know comes from Diana Winston, who is the Director of Mindfulness Education at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. She is also a mom to her three year old daughter, as well as the author of the wonderful book- The Little Book of Being, among others.
Here is her answer:
It’s hard because meditation is the opposite of how we’ve been culturally conditioned.
It’s hard because it’s not necessarily yet a habit. New habits take work.
It’s hard because our brains are wired to be stimulated and it takes a tremendous effort to overcome our addiction to stimulation.
It’s hard because there are seemingly far more interesting and necessary things to do. We could watch TV, work out, write poetry, scrub the grout from our showers…
It’s hard because sometimes, we are going through intense emotions that we don’t want to feel, and nothing short of restraints are going to make us sit there and feel that grief. Sometimes the thought of meditating makes us gag. Especially when we’re having a difficult time in life.
Yet paradoxically, that’s the best time to meditate. It’s when we need it the most.How to Meditate Every Day, by Diana Winston
why do we give up on meditation?
We have been practicing the opposite of what meditation asks of us for so many years, it’s no wonder we get frustrated and give up.
Meditation asks us to take a step back from how we usually experience our everyday life, and observe how this life unfolds in real time, moment to moment.
While drinking our morning coffee, rather than experiencing the taste of the coffee and the warmth of the mug in our hands, we are often troubleshooting imagined problems at work, or re-living past events– often with revisionist touches.
Or am I the only one who “slightly” re-writes the plot lines of personal failures and other insults?
Meditation invites us into a new relationship with experience: shifting from planning, self-congratulation or regret to touching, tasting, hearing, seeing, or feeling. From a world partially made up in our head, to the real world of raw sensory impressions, unfolding moment by moment.
We are no longer “doing” anything. Rather, we are eavesdropping on ourselves as experiences unfold. This shift from doing, comparing, judging, and thinking, into simply observing is like applying the brakes as we approach a stop sign.
Only many of us just roll right through.
The shift from doing to listening in
This shift from doing to listening in allows us to see how we are contributing to our own malaise. I love Rumi’s line here:
Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.
Sure, we get restless and anxious. We are not used to “just breathing” because, as Diana writes, it’s the opposite of how we’ve been conditioned.
This thing just takes patience. There is no way around it. Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us:
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
And just look at what She has done with near infinite patience. We just need a sliver of that!
Don’t think about this too much. The task of noticing what is happening in real time, and allowing that knowledge to get successively deeper and wider, carries the mind toward less and less discomfort and regret.
Just like that.
We all feel annoyed, frustrated and tired at times. But we discover, as Rumi points out, that as we stop weaving the threads of our own despair and boredom, the pattern improves.
Life unfolds, and we meet it simply and clearly. A mind like this lives peacefully amidst the changing circumstances of these challenging times.
simple practice, profound results
I am continually amazed at the wonderful our simple practice produces. Just sitting on a cushion and tuning into our real-time lived experiences, and tuning out the radio noise of the ego = such wonder and awe.
The mind re-shapes itself, harmonizing with the flow of life. And contentment follows. It’s that simple.
we harmonize with the universe
I love this observation by the American Catholic Benedictine monk and author Brother David Steindl-Rast, OSB:
A lifetime may not be long enough to attune ourselves fully to the harmony of the universe. But just to become aware that we can resonate with it – that alone can be like waking up from a dream.
Just sitting, breathing and tuning in.
Radio noise? Static? Boredom? No problem, just sit, breathe and tune in.
Happiness follows, in the Buddha’s words, “as surely as one’s shadow.”
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