Saturday, May 26, 2012

Meditation always goes wrong

I know a very muscular, ex-Marine physician who told me he doesn't like yoga.  His experience of the practice was that it was a form of self-torture.  All adults understand that many good things and worthwhile achievements are attained only with steady effort, that is often unpleasant and difficult.

I am sometimes fascinated by the concept of incarceration.  When did humans first understand that confining a child to a given chair or a felon to a cell was a form of reminder, rehabilitor and punishment, strong enough to have an effect? How can a fence or walls, so inanimate, still and dull, affect the mind, memory and behavior?

As with anything, we want to use our tools to good effect, achieving what will be good.  So it is with meditation.  

Meditation is sometimes described as "simple, but not easy."  At least two highly educated and mature men, scholars and fathers and well-traveled, have complained to me that they can't meditate properly.  The most common complaint I read that meditation teachers hear is that the mind of the meditator won't be quiet.  I have a feeling that observing the unquiet mind, coupled with the "sit still" part of meditation, results in a discomfort that the meditator wants to escape.  What's on tv?  How about a snack?  How is the garden doing?  Shouldn't I call a friend?

When confined to a chair or a meditation cushion, the active, ok - fidgety American is quickly able to find reasons that meditation is not for him, clear-cut experiences that he isn't built for it, can't do it, etc.  Like muscle building, drawing, learning Italian, gardening, playing the piano and many arts worth learning, you just have to do it.  Here's one set of directions:
How to meditate - simplified basic directions

Sit comfortably

Don't move

Concentrate on your breath

Do this for a number of minutes according to a timer

The purpose for doing this is most fundamentally to practice repeatedly bringing your attention back to your breath.  The mind continually supplies thoughts and the attention has a tendency to jump to those new thoughts.  The most valuable aspect of practicing meditation is the increased awareness of what you are thinking about. Many people who try to meditate have the idea that no thoughts should come to mind.  All functioning minds have thoughts that arise in them all the time.  Don't fall into the trap of thinking you are doing meditation incorrectly if you find the stream of thought continues.  It should.  Just redirect your attention back to the target, your breath, feeling your breath, breathing deliberately.  Redirect over and over as needed.  Each redirection is valuable.

See more here:

It is easy to describe the action but not so easy to do.  It is worth doing but you will never know unless you try repeatedly.

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