Do you sometimes feel in a stranglehold of overwhelm? So pressed for time that meditation feels like an unwarranted diversion from the important affairs of life?
The very thought of meditation may begin to spark annoyance. And the actual act may feel excruciatingly painful. When all the demands of life start pressing in, meditation can appear like an enemy on the battleground of life.
You came to meditation for a reason. You know that meditation is "good" for you, yet you resent the time it takes away from your real-world obligations.
How do you get through this?
"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally."
The benefits of teaching mindfulness to adolescents are confirmed in research between Tonbridge School and the Cambridge University Well-being Institute in the UK.
(This post is the second installment in a series of about integrating meditation into daily life.)
As mentioned in the last post, as a meditator, we should take lots of meditation mini-breaks throughout the day. But often it seems hard to switch gears between our involvement in daily activity and slowing down enough to meditate. So here are some steps we can take that will help us create the meditation habit during the day.
Whales - with their dramatic presence and playful spirit - always captivate my attention. Suddenly, all my thoughts drop away. My mind is wholly attuned to watching the water, waiting for the next appearance of these magnificent creatures.
When this happens, it's almost as though meditation has naturally dawned in my mind. Wouldn't it be wonderful if meditation were always so easy?
During a recent retreat, the teacher said something that really hit me: every time you practise, it is like meeting a buddha. He encouraged us to make the place where we practise a really special place where the environment would be a sacred place where we get to meet with our true selves. When I went back home, this really stayed with me. Every time I sit down to practise I now try to consciously remember how special it is in fact to practise and to get to meet a buddha. What a great gift to myself to take the space and time and really be. This is probably the only time during the day that I get to really hang out in the spaciousness and enjoy.
Currently Sogyal Rinpoche is conducting a retreat in Amsterdam called "How to be Happy." We started yesterday with a very powerful teaching that seamlessly blended integration instructions with a deep teaching on meditation. What struck me in particular was how Rinpoche taught on how we can work without stress. We can work hard, yet we have to not create stress. And when do we create stress? Rinpoche mentioned two ways: one is when you bang your head against the wall, you keep forcing yourself to go on when your at a dead end. Sometimes it is then better to take a short break, so you'll feel better, and often in that break you'll see a new solution.
I have somewhat of an interest in trying to make my work as efficiently as possible, so I can spend more time meditating and doing other things. I guess it's a casualty incurred from having lived in the US for many years. Anyway, a technique I have recently been experimenting with is the pomodoro technique in combination with the well-known meditation advice of practising short sessions, many times over. The idea of a pomodoro is a period of 25 minutes you devote to a single task with a clear goal, followed by a few minutes break. After this you are ready for another pomodoro. By breaking up your day like that in small chunks, you are motivated to really focus on one task, and feel like you have accomplished something rather than wasting your whole day doing everything and nothing. I then realized this was a perfect chance to bring meditation in the workday: every time you accomplish a pomodoro, you simply drop in for one minute, do whatever you need to do, and get ready for your next pomodoro. No chance to forget your next meditation session. Such brief meditation sessions are surprisingly powerful because they renew your focus, clarity and calm. Normally I always forget to take these brief meditation breaks, but in this way they happen naturally--they are part of the schedule! So the productivity gurus of today are reinventing what meditators have known for a long time.
Gaps fascinate me. They have a great and completely underestimated potential. They separate things, they are the space between. One could even say that it would be really difficult to distinguish anything, to say where one thing ends and another starts, without gaps. And the interesting thing about them is that they do not only separate physical objects, but also mental "objects". And that's where they become really relevant for meditation.
Just now, I had a treatment at the dentist. To be exact, it was one long treatment in two steps on two days. It was one of those really unpleasant treatments, opened by a countless number of injections all over the mouth, followed by horrible noises and massive mechanical interaction during which the little snatches of pain arriving at your nerves give you a glimpse of what it would feel like if you wouldn't have a tea cup of anesthetics inside your gums. So in one phrase: the whole program of experiences that make those visits at the dentist a nightmare for 9 out of 10 people.
But this time it was different. Or, it was the same but it felt completely different. Why? Because I had made a decision before.
Ahh, meditation. What a luxury to experience, just for a moment, the profound inner peace that may come with a simple practice like watching the breath.
If you’re a parent and reading this, then you are likely to agree that parenting our little ones introduces each of us to the myriad states of mind that are possible in the human condition. It wasn’t until I became a mother, that I experienced the fathomless depth of possible emotions.
Something quantitatively different began to stir in my mind once I began the parenting journey. Psychology tells us that it is the function of the limbic brain, where our survival responses dwell as well as our emotions and our sheer biological function to protect and rear our young. It just happens that we become emotionally activated through parenting. Does meditation help us to manage our emotions? Practicing meditation while on this rollercoaster ride of parenting has most definitely provided me (and continues to do so) with a stable and spacious ground from which to raise a family.