Picture this….you are excited to sign up for a course that promises to help you find greater ease of mind and body. For many, this is what a mindfulness program will offer. At the first class, the instructor leads you through some guided meditations. So far, so good…you think. Now for the homework – 6 days out of 7, sit down, become still, and concentrate the mind on the breath for 5 minutes or 10 minutes ( you choose!) It sounds simple…..as it turns out for many….this practice can seem like the hardest work in the world. I suggest that if you are experiencing mindfulness as being the hardest work in the world, you are on the right track! And to think you signed up for this voluntarily.
In the mindfulness classes that I teach, I ask participants to set aside a period of time each day for formal practice. This can be done sitting where one sits in a position that embodies physical calmness and stability and then the mind is invited to focus on one thing, usually the feeling of the breath. Most of us will start out thinking about the breath and it is important to know that meditation has nothing to do with thinking. To feel the breath, one has to access the sense of touch. “But….but…” you say. “I have spent my whole life paying attention to my thinking and I am rewarded for it as well”. Again, meditation doesn’t have anything to do with thinking.
I notice that this is very difficult for people to accomplish as they will often come back the next week saying that it was too hard. Either there isn’t enough time, or the chronic pain was too much, or something like this.
If you sit down, dutifully following the instructions, and the impulse to stop appears fairly shortly after the start, this is what is supposed to happen. The challenge is to make the choice to persist with the activity for the period of time you have made the commitment. This is extremely valuable, as this is the doorway to start to learn about yourself….your wants, your unease….whatever it is that brought you to the class starts to show up. The interesting thing about a mindfulness formal practice is that it is hard or, to put it another way, it will feel challenging. It is supposed to be that way! With a persistent effort and daily practice, you will discover your potential for calm and ease through meeting the challenge head on.
And to think you signed up for this voluntarily