‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’ – Lao Tzu
This past weekend I was walking with a friend. A good friend. A friend who suffers from chronic pain. Every day.
For the past few months, she has been participating in a clinical study that is testing the effectiveness of this new treatment specifically designed for her ailment. On our walk, she was articulating the stress she feels when she has to speak to the effectiveness of the treatment – she thinks it is helping but it isn’t night and day. It was like she didn’t want to let someone else or herself down if she couldn’t say, with complete confidence, that this was a cure. She can pinpoint small improvements in some areas, but it’s not like her chronic pain is suddenly gone.
This made me think of so many things that we assume will change. One action, one modification, one trial. Immediate results.
I started out thinking this story represented the meditation journey. But as I’m writing it, I am realizing that this is how meditation also serves us too.
When I started meditating, I didn’t notice anything. Not a damn thing.
I was uncomfortable sitting and my mind wandered.
But I kept at it.
After awhile I was still uncomfortable sitting and my mind kept wandering.
But I kept at it.
Even though the B.A.T.s (Big A$$ Things = the things that stress me out and knock me down) I was dealing with were still in my life, I started to notice that very small things were changing. And I mean small.
- I could watch a TV show without having to fiddle on my phone or get up constantly.
- I could stand in line and not be impatient.
- I could do things at a slow pace (slow paces typically drove me nutty).
- I could read an entire article in one sitting without getting up to check something, do something, be somewhere, etc.
- When something frustrated me, I could think, ‘huh, that’s frustrating’ as opposed to letting it completely consume me (this still ebbs and flows).
- I could leave a dirty dish in the sink (hello type A).
- I could untie my shoelaces before yanking my foot out of my sneaker.
I told you they were small.
When I sit on my cushion and drop into my meditation, I am making a small step towards my own inner connection, peace and fulfillment.
And in return, I’m seeing small steps towards inner connection, peace and fulfillment.
If you go in expecting that meditation is going to cure all of your BATs, you’re going to be in for a serious let down. Chances are you’ve practiced being a certain way for many, many years and it is going to take time to reverse your patterns, modify your behavior or change your actions.
It also doesn’t help that we are conditioned to think that there are [immediate] fixes for everything.
Attaching the expectation of immediate results puts an unattainable goal on your practice and that’s not fair. It’s not fair to the science of meditation and most of all, it’s not fair to you. You deserve a chance at whatever you are trying to cope with and meditation gives you a [really good] chance. So many things take time, and this is not a bad thing. There is a lot of learning, growing and strengthening that can take place with time. Think of how long it takes to save money or grow your hair out or move up in your career. The good things are going to take time.
Keep practicing. Notice the little changes. Give yourself time. Treat your practice with compassion.
Mediate & be well.