Last night at meditation our group consisted of two humble yogis. I know we all have busy schedules and if you are unable to attend a Tuesday night sitting, no problem. While group practice has its benefits, solo meditation can also be very helpful. Even taking a 15 minute break in the middle of the day, or when you first arrive at work, to sit quietly and check in on your sensory experience can have an incredible calming effect on the mind and nervous system. Try it!
Last night both my fellow practitioner and I shared some experiences of tension and discomfort following the sit. Meditation can at times be difficult because we can come face-to-face with our demons, so to speak, on a level not previously experienced. Our response to this discomfort often times is resistance: our mind wanders, so we focus harder; our thoughts are uncooperative, so we reprimand them; our back hunches, so we sit up straighter.
I shared previously that for several years now I have struggled with some very difficult emotional and mental states, making even basic social or professional engagements, at times, a seemingly impossible struggle. These issues were not only present but intensified during my mediation practice.
For many years I applied a sustained, focused mediation, imagining I could somehow break through these incredibly tense feelings. This approach was harsh, and for me even aggressive and brought me no relief from this suffering. In retrospect, it sounds a bit ridiculous, but I think so many of us have adopted this practice, on some level, of ‘fighting through the pain’.
After several years of this uncompromising, blind resistance I slowly began to experiment with a different approach—one of radical self-compassion and acceptance in whatever way felt natural. For the last year or so, my practice has been to sit as comfortably as possible (at times even putting my head down or pulling my knees up to my chest) and engaging in considerate conversation and warm reception of these imagined demons. The experience, I am happy to report, has been considerably less harsh and infinitely more transformative.
There is a story about a Buddhist monk who was asked by one of his students how he dealt with tension in his meditation. In response to the question the monk nodded and said, “I agree, I agree.”
Next time you sense the mind or nervous system behaving in way you feel somehow isn’t right or does not serve you, it might be interesting to simply say ‘ok’ and, if you’re environment feels safe, actually give in to that thought or feeling.
We will meet next week Tuesday the 24th @ 7pm. All are welcome. If there are any changes or cancelations I will let everyone know. Hope to see you then, if time and intention permit.