How to Meditate 3 - Sitting with Yourself

Try not to turn your meditation into a battle, or to make it into another thing to beat yourself up with (I can't do this, I'm too impatient, there's something wrong with me because my brain just won't stop thinking).

When you sit to meditate, you inevitably find that you are sitting with yourself.  This can be uncomfortable and/or frustrating.  It might be that you are a planner, or a dreamer; that you relive the story of your past life, or that you imagine your future.  You might get stuck on a person, or a conversation, or a thought you've had.  You might feel something (pleasant or unpleasant) that you can't let go of: reliving a romantic encounter, for example, or going over an argument or past hurt.

Whatever it is that you find in yourself, know that at least the first stage of your meditation will often be a period of reconciling yourself to whatever it is that has been occupying your mind of late (consciously or subconsciously).  This is an important and valid part of the meditation process.  If our yoga practice is about observing ourselves and assessing our actions with clarity, then it is important that we do not flinch from the things that occupy our thinking minds.  Moreover, learning to sit quietly with whatever is present in us, can be the most challenging thing of all.  Sometimes I have longed to lose myself in my mantra, because it is SO much more settling than sitting with me, me, me, for the duration of my practice.

The proportion of your allotted meditation time that is taken up with thinking, will vary each time you sit.  Some days I have spent 50 minutes with thoughts buzzing around my head, finding only 10 minutes of peace at the end of my practice.  Very rarely (beautiful days), I sit and almost immediately fall into that deep, quiet space that exists behind everything.  Other times it comes and goes.  And the curious thing is, that sitting with beauty, joy and peace can be as challenging as sitting with your thoughts.  Sometimes I feel so unbounded, energetic and free that I can barely stand it!

But it is important not to judge.  There is a kind of wisdom to meditation that we cannot understand, but that we must trust.  The days that I sit with my thinking brain are as instructional, as motivational and move me along as much as the days when I fall into instant peace.

Accepting your practice as it comes to you is part of the practice.  That's faith.  That's trusting the process and trusting yourself.

If you continue to come up against blocks; if you find yourself forever mired in painful thoughts or lost in reveries, then you may wish to consider the amount of time that you are giving to your meditation practice.  In the past, I would sometimes emerge from meditation feeling irritable.  It turned out that I wasn't giving myself time to get beyond the busy brain part of my practice to the untroubled, dissolution into peace that comes after it.  Or you could ask your teacher or reach for a good book on meditation; sometimes a kind word and some advice from someone who's been there is all you need to help you along.

Meditation is a practice that moves along in its own sweet time.  We're not used to having to wait for things; we're used to getting what we want as and when we desire it; or else we work harder to get it.  Meditation is the opposite of this: try less, wait more, trust, and watch what happens without judgment.
"You can't always get what you want,
but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need."
The Rolling Stones


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