when is the best time to meditate?

Updated On — 11th Oct, 2022

… when the mind complains it does NOT want to meditate, says the Buddhist monk U Tejaniya

I’m going to assume that you are like most of us who are into meditation–you struggle maintaining a regular practice, right; you might even ask when is the best time to meditate.

The instructions are so very simple—be aware of what is happening in the present moment. And yet, right away, we find this challenging and humbling.

We see that the mind has a mind of its own and won’t easily settle down.

Even for people I know who have been meditating for forty years–daily practice is not always a cakewalk.

When I was in graduate school we learned that the main work in therapy was working with our resistance. I think it was Irving Yalom who remarked that therapists meet clients where they are and take them where they don’t want to go.

This is what Saydaw U Tejaniya was saying in the opening line of this email. The best time to meditate is when our resistance is front and center. When we follow his advice we chip away at the basic resistance we all experience as humans.

when is the best time to meditate? ask Portrait-of-a-woman-by-Julie-de-Graag-1877-1924
Portrait of a Woman by Julie de Graag (1877-1924). Original from The Rijksmuseum.

One of the first let downs is meditation is not what we thought it would be.

We are not trying to have an out of body experience, quipped one teacher, we are trying to have an in the body experience – with how we are, just as we are, in the present moment.

I remember reading a conversation between Jack Kornfield and Pema Chodron some years ago. They were talking about what makes the Buddhist approach to meditation special or remarkable. To which Pema Chodron replied:

The Buddhist teachings are fabulous at simply working with what’s happening as your path of awakening, rather than treating your life experiences as some kind of deviation from what is supposed to be happening.

When I read that I just sighed. What a relief!

It’s good to create space, get settled, and have a little bliss-out at times.

But it’s during those moments that test our resolve that we see where we are stuck and what we need to work on, to let go of.

And what we work on in meditation generalizes out into our life. That’s the magic of meditation.

Mindfulness is about getting down to the nitty gritty of our lives, exposing our vulnerability, and being with “whatever comes your way” as Sayadaw U Tejaniya says:

Looking for something which we think we are supposed to see is not mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is just being aware of whatever comes your way.

The nitty gritty of our lives is just this cup of far too hot coffee, this car which needs new tires, and which may not get me all the way to work today, or these construction workers invading my quiet morning.

Life isn’t supposed to go anyway in particular. And neither does our meditation.

We just show up for what is. Pema Chödrön explains:

We get misled by the ads in magazines where people are looking blissful in their matching outfits, which also match their meditation cushions. We can get to thinking that meditation is about transcending the difficulties of your life and finding this just-swell place.

But that doesn’t help you very much because that sets you up for being constantly disappointed with what happens every day at breakfast, lunch, and dinner—all day long.

A frequent complaint I hear from students is they can never find the right time to meditate.

If you are alive, like now would be a very good time.

Let’s have Sayadaw U Tejaniya of Burma have the last words:

Don’t assume conditions are bad for practice. There is a lot you can learn from what you think are unfavorable conditions for meditation. There may be unhappiness or suffering. Don’t make judgments that these conditions are bad for practice.

In Dhamma, there is only what’s happening. Accept the situation and be aware.

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About Tom Davidson-Marx

Former Buddhist monk, now father of two and full time registered nurse, my passion is sharing what I have learned from a life-long love, study and practice of the early Buddhist teachings. Thanks for reading.

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