Meditation Articles Series

What are the ‘secrets’ of an ongoing meditation practice?

On my first meditation course the teacher told us to focus on the breath entering and leaving the nostrils. Well, I thought that didn’t seem too difficult. But by the second day I was ready to leave. No matter how hard I tried, my mind would wander off. I would come back to the breath when the instruction was repeated but it seemed within a few seconds I would be off again in some reverie. By the beginning of the third day I had convinced myself that meditation wasn’t for me. My body ached from hours of sitting cross-legged on the floor. The cushion now felt like a lump of concrete under my buttocks. Flies droned around the room in the late afternoon warmth and I began to dread one landing on my head in its drowsy state. A monologue raged through my head; “What am I doing here? This is crazy. This isn’t for me. I need to go home. This isn’t fun. There must be easier ways to feel peaceful. What a waste of time! I’m fed up with being told to focus on this dumb breath.” Yes, the mind was having a great time with the thoughts pouring through it and my reactivity to each of those thoughts.

The fourth day loomed in the early hours of the morning as the first bell rang to wake up and go to the meditation hall. I sat with my blankets around me to keep me warm. Somewhere during that day I began to notice I wasn’t so agitated. My mind was still busy but I wasn’t reacting so violently to the thoughts. I noticed my body was a little softer and more relaxed. It still ached but I wasn’t holding myself so tensely. The instructions became helpful and soothing rather than annoying and repetitive. As the days of meditation continued my mind was not so besieged with thoughts. In these moments I felt very calm, very peaceful, very still, and deeply relaxed. My body seemed to straighten and grow taller as I continued to sit cross-legged in the practice sessions. The room took on a deep and penetrating silence. I felt that silence filling me with a joyousness that was somehow familiar and something that I had forgotten long ago.

What made me stay for the ten-day duration of the meditation course? Perhaps it was curiosity to find out if this formal “meditation thing” really worked. Perhaps I was ready for the immense shift in my life that meditation brought. Certainly when I began to experience the stillness and quietness inside me I couldn’t wait to get to the hall to sit and meditate. I began to realize that meditation really does work. Could I continue to bring inner peace and calm, serenity and acceptance into my life? That is indeed the ongoing journey.

What I have learnt is that meditation does require perseverance and discipline. It requires that you show up each day to sit in your practice for whatever length of time you have decided is right for your life. The ‘secrets’ for an ongoing meditation practice are perseverance and discipline, and accepting and allowing what is happening in any moment. These ‘secrets’ will enable anyone I believe to benefit from meditation.

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