For those about to MEDITATE!

Artwork by Zuzanna Jura

I have been meditating for several years, I have done MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy — in four days, but still), completed postgraduate studies “Mindfulness and Compassion” and read several books on the subject.

I can see how big, positive impact meditation has on my emotional state, but I’m still struggling. There are a few practical things that help me and below I share this knowledge with you. Maybe it will help someone?

Just as we have different nutrients to support us in practicing sports, we may have different techniques to help us with other activities in various stages.

Before / at the beginning

I don’t start by observing the breath or anything else. I sit down and ask myself is it OK that to sit on my beige pillow for a while, and then magical things happen: I leave other “urgent” matters behind me and meditation just happens.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

I then take a dramatically different approach. I invoke my personal guardian angel of mindfulness and place him as a barrier against thoughts that I know will not let go and sooner or later will attack the mind that is freed from them for a moment. This goes against the standard advice in many guided meditations: “if you have thought, it is perfectly okay”. Well it’s not ok — this is my time to live without thoughts, so get out! I stole this technique from Ajahn Brahm:

“Before you pacify time, you need to pacify the thinking and wandering mind. To do this you need a subtle type of will: the deliberate will not to do. It’s the will to set up a guard at the gate of your mind, like a bouncer at a night club, saying, “There are these problems; don’t let them come in.” This sort of restraint is, at least initially, a type of willpower, a type of controlling. It’s a conscious effort to subdue the mind, to curb its unwholesome tendencies. You just draw a line and put a guard there.”

During

This piece is quite obvious, but I will write it anyway, so that the whole structure sticks together (smile). What is really critical for me, is the moment of noticing that a thought caught me, or rather the moment of returning to meditation and noticing this return. I can then see this thought clearly as an object, I can name it and congratulate myself on returning. Then I register a feeling of great pride and feel strengthened in continuing the practice. It does not matter how long I am away, as long as I can return.

I regret to say, that I have also such practices that I am pulled away by thoughts and I only realise that, when the practice is finished, if it was a guided meditation. Then I throw my pillow in the corner and register the feeling of anger at myself. Yes, I know, there is no self-loving kindness involved.

My observation

After

After meditating, I try to maintain a mindfull approach to the next activities during the day. I get up mindfully from my smelly pillow, mindfully move around and mindfully start cooking, cleaning or complete some other fascinating task. Sometimes I can stay in this well-being state for quite a long time. It is, as if during meditation I refueled with high quality fuel and then drive on it. It would be such a shame not to use it.

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