Why is meditation so difficult? Perhaps it is partly due to our perception of what meditation really is.
I can remember prior to practicing meditation myself, that when I saw someone meditating, I thought they were kind of wacky. I wondered, what do they think they are doing? Are they trying some transcendental thing so they can float in the air or what! It truly seemed like a ridiculous thing for anyone to do, and then just wrote it off as some new age type of fad for hippies.
But as I began studying the Buddha’s teachings, I also decided that I needed to also incorporate a little meditation into my studies. This seemed to be fundamental to the teachings. First having a friend offer some suggestions on how to do it, then reading some articles on meditation as well. I found it very difficult to do because my mind was all over the place, and I could not seem to focus and relax. It was actually very disturbing to me in the beginning, so I rarely attempted it. At that point I wasn’t sure if meditation even worked, if I was doing it wrong, or if there was really some actual benefit to doing it at all.
It wasn’t until about three years ago that I began to practice daily. Starting with only five to ten minutes per night, I would simply sit quietly and breathe. My mind was still over-active and jumping from thought to thought, but I persevered and continued to do this each night. What I began to notice first, was that when I missed a day that I did not feel as balanced. I was just a little more uneasy, and found myself getting upset more easily as well. This really encouraged me to be more determined, and spend that time each night to just sit.
As time went on, I learned a method to my meditation practice. And that was to always begin with loving kindness toward myself, then my Family, then friends, then the whole World. I found that by doing this, I would spend about ten minutes just focusing on loving kindness and compassion. Then it was not a big leap to continue with focusing on the breath and practicing insight (vipassana) and concentration (samadhi) meditation for another ten to fifteen minutes. At the same time that I was developing this practice, I switched my meditation to the morning. Finding that starting my day with meditation helped carry those benefits throughout the day. Still today, at times I may also sit in the evening for just a short while if I can.
This may all sound as though it came to me easily over time, but that is not the truth at all. In fact, I often still struggle with making time to sit on the cushion. With some mornings starting off just right, and I am able to sit and really enjoy a peaceful thirty minutes of meditation. While other days seem hell-bent on keeping me from my practice. But on these days, I still have the determination, and make time to do it if only for ten minutes or so.
But one overshadowing lesson that I have learned from all of this, is that meditation is available to me every minute of every day. Right now, as I sit here and write this post, I can be fully present and observe my breath. Observe my mind, my thoughts and feeling as they arise and fall away. I can practice being nonjudgmental, letting go of the ego, compassion and even generosity. It’s all available right now if I just pay attention. Which does not mean that there is no reason to sit on the cushion any longer. This practice and this path are about understanding our own minds, and this can best be accomplished through sitting, standing, walking and breathing meditation each minute of the day. Confidence in this is what will encourage any of us to continue and expand how, when and where we practice. And each of us can only do this as often as we are able.
Meditation is hard, in the same way that exercise, eating healthy, studying, and forgiveness can be hard. All of which have such great and wholesome benefits to ourselves, but also require mindfulness and determination. Consistent determination that any of us can see once we begin to observe the benefits.
It is never too late to begin. Never too late to forgive, be kind, compassionate, or offer your generosity. Do not be discouraged, it is never to late to offer yourself some time to just be quiet with yourself and offer yourself the love you deserve. Remembering that to offer yourself even a little love is better than to offer none at all.