Some of the statements that are made about meditation practice and peacefulness can be misleading. More than that, they can lead to unrealistic expectations that cause beginners to lose heart and give up their practice.
The most common thing people who don’t meditate say to us is, “I can’t meditate. I tried it but I can’t stop my thoughts. I can’t find any peace.”
They say this because they’ve heard meditation will bring them peace. Nobody has mentioned that it’ll often make them feel worse (i.e. More aware of existing suffering) in the short term.
Yes, I say to them. That’s the way it is. Keep going and it’ll change.
The problem is that often meditation isn’t about peace. So a beginner tries to sit, finds utter discomfort and restlessness, then compares that to all these people saying how blissful meditation is, so they think they’ve failed and give up.
Which is kind of like going to the gym a few times and expecting to find it easy. Going to the gym regularly and working hard will make you physically fit, but if you’re training effectively you will never find the training easy. The progressive nature of training means you will always be challenged.
It’s the same with meditation. If you’re doing the kind of work that is going to bring changes, it will always be tough going. Until you’ve dealt with the dark stuff, all those undigeste
d life experiences, until you’ve integrated your shadow, meditation can often be the hardest thing you do in life.
That is when you know it is working. That is when you know you are meditating effectively. That is when you know you are not doing what many people who bang on about the joys of meditation are doing, which is spiritual bypassing – just exchanging the current delusion for a different, dreamier, bliss -filled one full of love and light and peace and happiness.
For sure, there are blissful times in any long term meditation practice. Sometimes we just need to rest and enjoy, that happens quite often as we go along. And over time the essential nature of life does arise as love in us – but as an internal force rising, not as an external add-on created by our imagination. There is a huge difference though between tuning out of life by imagining a beautiful reality and experiencing the truth of life by learning to engage both the shadow and the light that already exists.
And you get that by sitting with the anger, the discomfort, the irritation and Thea boredom. You sit with it for hour after hour and you learn to deal with it without acting out (unleashing it on others) or acting in (being mentally destructive towards yourself). You find a way to navigate these wild emotions and rampant thoughts without numbing out, without avoiding them or switching off to everyday life. You slowly learn how to live an embodied life, neither grasping (at the “good” things) nor pushing away (the “bad” things), just enjoying life as it arises.
The key to changing your relationship with your mind, to easing the suffering of overthinking and worrying by developing a meditation practice can be summed up in one word – Relentlessness.
No matter how hard it is, just keep coming back to your cushion day after week after month after year. You are rewiring the neurological pathways of your brain! That will not happen in one session, or even in a few weeks of consistent practice.
How long did it take you to get where you are now? 30, 40,50+ years? So if meditation will make things better in say 10 years, isn’t that a pretty good deal?
Your mind will change. You practice, your efforts, will be worthwhile. Have faith, and keep coming back to the work.
Relentless. Committed. Engaged.