At my most neurotic and ungrounded moments, I often avoid the very things I need: exercise, eating well, but most of all meditation of any kind. It's not just that it is challenging, I'm afraid of what I'll realize or come to terms with. What if I realize I'm on the wrong path and I've been expending energy on something fruitless? What if I have to change careers? What if I have to engage in confrontation? A friend confessed they'd been consciously avoiding their Morning Pages because they were enjoying wallowing in their current state and simply had no interest in the ass-kicking that would ensue when they sat down to write.
Why is it when we most need to listen to the still small voice (or loud, haranguing shriek) inside us, we bolt?
A friend of mine is about to go on a Vipassana retreat. Vipassana (which roughly translates to "seeing deeply") is a type of Buddhist meditation based on the teachings of S. N. Goenka. The goal is non-attached observation of the present moment. The practice is taught at several meditation centers around the world, free of charge. To fully immerse in the practice, students are required to observe no contact with the outside world or other students, and anything that might provide distraction is not allowed (all electronics, reading and writing materials). There is a half hour of Q&A daily but other than that, only the instructors speak. The course is 10 days long.
TEN. DAYS. LONG.
Just the idea of this makes me hyperventilate. Me and my thoughts alone in my head for 10 seconds is a challenge some days; 10 days without distractions sounds terrifying! Or intriguing. Both?
Although I may not be ready to embark on a 10 day journey, it has inspired me to get back to regularly seeking stillness. Meditation does not have to be an hour of sitting in the lotus position with yoga pants on. Take 5 minutes to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. When your mind wanders, bring it back. If you open your eyes and 5 minutes hasn't passed, close your eyes again. You may be surprised by your ability to drop in and how it gives you perspective.
Perfection is not to be sought nor will it be attained. People who have meditated intensely for years still have issues with their mind wandering in practice. In her audio book Getting Unstuck, Pema Chodron, who has been meditating for 30 years, talks about how difficult it is to stay present.
"That's why I have this lousy meditation that doesn't bother me anymore because whatever arises is afresh and I know that's absolutely true. I just have this hopelessly unworkable, non-meditative mind and I've devoted my whole life to it and talked to millions of people about it."And read the list of things that have distracted this veteran in the post Ways I Have Been A Bad Meditator. The goal is not to do it right, the goal is to do it.
So, if you're at work, go stand in the broom closet or grab a stall in the bathroom for a few minutes. If you're at home turn off the phone and close your eyes. Breathe.
Any other suggestions on how to find stillness and presence in your day?