Meditation Articles Series

Why take up a meditation practice?

There are all sorts of reasons why people begin meditation. For me it was part of my spiritual journey. Once I had tasted the profound peace I experienced on my first ten day retreat I have never stopped my formal practice. That doesn't mean that from that day on I lived in peace and bliss. Far from it. My responses to life have presented me with many challenges over the years. Sometimes I remained centred and balanced, other times I caved in under the emotional turmoil.

What then is the most appropriate action to take when as the old saying goes, "you have taken one step forward and two steps backwards"? You have "lost it" in reactive behaviour to someone or something else. You may feel angry, sad, resentful, despairing, and overcome with many chaotic emotions. In fact you are feeling down right miserable.

First of all don't give up your meditation practice even though the temptation not to meditate is very strong, especially if when you sit you become even more agitated than you are already. Accept the agitation, the clamour of thoughts to fill your mind. Accept and allow what is happening, "Oh, so this is what's going on right now. Interesting. This is how my body feels when I'm in this state." Watch your breath as it comes and goes, coming back to the breath each time your mind wanders. As your mind settles and becomes more focused, scan your body. If you are agitated there will be places in your body where you will feel very strong sensations. They may for example, be in your throat, your heart, your stomach, your head or some other place in your body. Be with the sensations as much as you can. Observe them. Breathe into them. Accept them as they are. The tendency is to try to get away from any discomfort. It is natural for humans to do that. Humans avoid pain as much as they can and will over medicate (yes, medicate not meditate), over eat, over drink, over exercise, over watch TV, or do something else to distract them from what they feel as pain and discomfort. Many studies show that when people observe the sensations in their bodies they are able to manage both physical and emotional pain more effectively.

Next time you become destabilized by reacting to something or someone else take some time out. It may only be for five minutes but that may be enough time to centre yourself again. Meditate by focusing on your breath. Observe the breath. As thoughts arise observe the thoughts, as sensations arise in your body observe the sensations. Keep on coming back to your breath. Just be aware letting go of all judgments. Know that the thoughts and the sensations are all rising, and falling, and passing away. See if you can, even if only for a moment, sit back and watch the movie with detachment.

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