First in a four-part series.
How do I know if I am meditating or not? Once my body is still, my breath is deep in the belly, my eyes are closed….now what? Am I meditating or just wasting my time?
These are important questions that I have been asking myself because meditation is a journey into a deeper internal reality, and, like all journeys, we can get off course. It is helpful for me in my practice to know what I am up against as I attend to holding my concentration in one place. We could easily find that we are someone who has meditated for years without ever meditating.
In my practice, I have noticed certain scenarios that arise when my eyes are closed. I call them the 4 D’s: distractions, delight, dragons, and the divine. They help me know what meditation is not and what I can expect to meet along the journey.
Distractions: It is not easy to sit still. Not in a culture that is on the move like ours is. Not in a culture where we pride ourselves on speed, on noise, on stimulation. Most of us, when we sit for our meditation practice, find ourselves in high gear – stress hormones stabbing at our bodies, restlessness pulsing through our veins, our minds on the tasks left uncompleted compelling us to reject our practice and get back into action; emotions of guilt, anger, anxiety, worry, and resentment knocking on the door of our nervous system.
I call this state of restlessness, whether it be in the body, the emotions, the mind, or any combination of these three, distractions. And sometimes when we sit to do our meditation practice, this is all that we can accomplish. A body that aches or refuses to be still, a mind that bounces from thought to thought, and emotional turmoil that refuses to release us. When this happens, we are in the distraction phase of meditation.
We notice that this is what is true in the moment, and we gently practice holding our attention on our breath or with our mantra.
Notice the state of your body, emotions, and mind as you move throughout your day. Find creative and fun ways to ease the strain so you bring a less confused body-breath-mind to your meditation practice.
If you find yourself in the distraction phase of meditation, practice gentleness towards yourself. If you try to make yourself different than what you are, you will create more distraction and discord and will deny yourself the chance of a deeper internal experience. Be compassionate with yourself and your process.
Next week Part 2: Delight