Over the last few weeks I’ve begun to gage my practice based on my natural breath. If I sit down to practice and my breath is even, smooth and unfaltering I know I’m going drop into my meditation practice.
If my breath feels short and choppy I know the next 20 minutes are going to be hard.
When I struggle with meditation I want nothing to do with what is inside my form. I want to jump out of my form, usually through my shoulders. Isn’t that random? My exit strategy is at my shoulders? I know I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders and arms – probably due to the job in software where I spend the day sitting and directed towards a computer screen.
For a while I was struggling with this jumpy – short breath – uncomfortable meditation before work. I was too amped up on starting the day and getting the day underway. But then, I had one of these challenging sessions on a lazy Saturday. What?
I had nowhere to be, just the space of a Saturday afternoon ahead of me. And I couldn’t be there. I couldn’t just be within my own form, with my attention on my own breath.
I was thinking about how it was Saturday and I wasn’t going out and being social like a fun person. I was thinking about what if I got hungry during my meditation and all I could think about was my hunger. I wasn’t even hungry yet! I was thinking about how I should organize something for the week or accomplish something on my to-do list.
As I look back on this, I think about the irony of space-how suffocating space, or open time, can be. Some people are OK with space, but some people aren’t. When you aren’t use to open space, or you don’t practice being in open space the unknown territory can feel uncomfortable and even a bit scary.
And this is why meditation is called a practice. Because you’re practicing being in this space. In the areas that are outside of your comfort zone. It’s practicing being observant of and not attached to the uncomfortableness.
I have to be honest and say it has taken me 2 years to get to the point where my tipping point is now towards being observant as opposed to being consumed by the space, the void, the uncomfortableness. This will probably ebb and flow – this tipping point will shift depending on where I am on this journey.
Even when meditation is hard, and even though it has taken a long time to even notice progress and feel the benefits, I can’t help but feel how worth it the journey has been. Even when it is not great, I can recognize it. Struggling, or being grumpy or unhappy or in a funk is no longer some elusive force that descends upon me without warning or without anything I can do about it. I may not be able to totally get rid of it, but I can put a little space between the uncomfortableness and I. My meditation practice has put me in touch with the ability to not only be more comfortable in the space, but to also call on this space when I need it.
Try it. Practice it. Keep at it.
Meditate and be well.