The Struggle To Meditate

August 23, 2011

in Inspiration,Life Lessons,Stillness

The hot room lacked furniture. Sitting down meant taking a colored yoga mat from the corner, placing it on the floor, and criss-crossing my legs. As soon as my legs hit the floor, I noticed the bare beige walls with chipped paint as the only decorative embellishment. The goal, in theory, was simple. We were required to meditate for thirty minutes. There were no indicators of time, other than the meditation leader’s cue to stop.

The idea of doing nothing in a room full of nothing overwhelmed me. I understood the literal meaning of meditation. To embrace stillness. But I am not there yet. My focus is on time and how to utilize it. In my day to day life, I embrace my to-do lists. On any given day of the week, there are at least ten items listed that require my attention. The all-important red line of ink that moves across my own words gives me a quiet sense of satisfaction. It means completed, finished, done, and an A in the win column, accomplished goal. I’ve spent much of my life that way, creating tasks and working toward completing them. When I fail to accomplish a certain task, I consider it a personal failure. I judge my own to-do list and what I haven’t achieved.

Because meditation’s goal cannot be immediately realized or since there is nothing to “cross-out”, I struggle with it. I set up a time limit on my meditation, not so I can move toward stillness, but so that I can “say” I met the goal of achieving a certain time period of nothingness. In reality, my mind reeks of clutter, of noise, of words that betray the silence.

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After the thirty minutes end, a discussion follows. The main goal, the instructor says, is to not judge the meditation. Meditation shouldn’t have a goal because it shatters the concept of stillness. She urges everyone to accept where they are in their respective meditation practice. The ultimate focus is to create a gap of space that you can return to, one of complete calm and peace.

I am not there yet, I say to myself, but I quickly take those words back. Meditation doesn’t belong on a t0-do list.

 

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Belinda August 24, 2011 at 4:06 am

The word “practice” comes to mind after reading this post. It’s a kind word that honors the effort without making judgments. (Let’s see how many times I’ll remember to use it today…)

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2 SuziCate August 24, 2011 at 7:41 am

I also struggle to just sit and meditate, but I’ve learned that embracing the stillness does not require that…I can simply just be, right here now in the moment whether at home or out in nature. I suppose it’s something that just happens for me rather than something I can make occur.
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3 Sheila Singh August 24, 2011 at 9:34 am

Such a great post! So many people struggle with meditation because they feel there is a goal, that it is, like you said, a to-do. Really it’s just finding the ability to sit with yourself. And often to observe as the thoughts continue to run, while trying not to get agitated, drawn in or judging the meditation itself. The more you return to your breath while the mind runs, slowly with time, moments of space and quiet will dawn upon you, just as easily as they slip away. All the while hopefully you con continue to observe impartially and with ease. :)
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4 Privilege of Parenting August 24, 2011 at 11:08 am

Whether or not we all struggle with this, I know I do. One of my favorite (or should we say most efficacious) meditation paths I have stumbled upon was offered to me by a client versed in meditative arts, by way of a poet named John O’Donohue. He counsels focus on the breath, breathing in love (or God’s Love if that works for you) and breathing out fear and desire.

I felt that this one clicked for me, O’Donohue being Irish, when I was traveling in Ireland and was truly able to BE in Ireland and perhaps all things, from cows, grass, ruins, rain, tea and tranquility to make it work… but sometimes they say “take the yoga with you,” so I might also say, “take the Ireland (or whatever your Ireland feeling is) with you.”

Here’s to driving meditation, cooking meditation, blogging and commenting “meditation” (in other words, just doing and being present to what we are doing… culminating with nothing). But until then, it’s nice to be together in our doings of myriad somethings.
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5 Rudri October 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm

I am very late in responding to this thoughtful comment by you. I will definitely check out O’Donahue’s poetry. Recently, I’ve revisited several poets, Rumi, Oliver and Rilke. I find their questioning and lyricism meditative. I find a quiet peace in poetry. Something I know I wasn’t prepared for in my twenties.

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6 Tiffany August 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I struggle with this too. I am still working on it.
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7 ayala August 24, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I just started yoga and my instructor kept repeating, ” no judgment”. So I wish you to accept that this will take time and you will benefit from your practice. I understand how you feel, I as well have many tasks to do. But this week I will try to remind myself, the way you should, that we must take care of ourselves so we can be better for those we love. Take a deep breath and accept the peace that comes.
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8 Megan (Best of Fates) August 25, 2011 at 8:10 am

I’m impressed! I’m not sure I could handle even that amount of doing nothing!

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9 Amber August 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Haha! To get rid of that “to-do list.” I must say, I don’t meditate too often. My meditation comes when I journal as it allows me to reflect over the day. However, yoga is beautiful and I find the practice of deep breathing to be an integral part of keeping anxiety at bay.
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10 Cathy August 25, 2011 at 8:09 pm

I wish I could meditate. Maybe I can but I’ve never tried out of fear of failure. Seems to go against all things meditation is for.
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11 BigLittleWolf August 30, 2011 at 8:40 am

This is something I have never been able to do. Perhaps it is why I write.
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12 Christine August 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I used to be the same, and in very many ways I still am. I have three agenda’s just so that I can keep track of what to do and what I’ve done, in particular at work. I thrive on lists, like you I like red and check-marks. But last fall, when I first found meditation changed, a subtle shift. I didn’t necessarily embrace the quiet, rather it embraced me. I just gave in to it, and with it came profound relief. This leaves me thinking, after reading this, that sometimes we need to learn to not try so hard, and to not worry whether it’s right or not. Giving it a go is all that matter. (Also, focusing on feeling my breath going in and out really helped!)
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13 denise August 30, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I understand your challenge and admire your willingness to try. My meditation practice consists of three tries, and countless attempts to not judge myself for not doing it more.
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