“Difficult” Meditation Sessions

July 6, 2009

It’s so easy to forget, and I have to remind myself time and time again, that meditation is a “process,” not a “state.” We can experience a “state” of concentration, absorption, clarity — and such states can last for several minutes, and seem somewhat stable. At some point our mind observes what’s going on and labels it: “This is a pleasant state. I hope this lasts awhile! What do I have to do to make it last? I want to come back here again!” If one thinks about it too much, the state may begin to disintegrate.

It is easy then to let one’s meditation become about pursuing this “state,” because it seems to feel very good, while it lasts.

This process of pleasurable states developing, and of then longing to recapture these states, and then of developing insight into this, seems to be part of the inner logic of the unfolding of a meditation practice.

“States” are good, because they are a demonstration that “something is happening,” and provide much of the initial motivation to practice. But all states are temporary, which is a good thing, LOL, because otherwise we could fall into a permanent state of unpleasant feeling!

The times when our meditation seems a bit more difficult are also good. Of course, sometimes there is a correctible reason for this — we haven’t been getting enough sleep, the room is very hot, we are sitting in an uncomfortable position. But other times, it is just in the nature of what is happening for us at that time. We’ve had a stressful day, something difficult is going on in our lives, we are coming down with a cold. . .

Even if it does not lead to a state of bliss, meditation at such times is fruitful because it gives us an opportunity to experiment with an alternate way of relating to our discomfort, our restlessness, our pain.

I recommend you read that sentence again.

Meditating in difficult circumstances is good, because difficult circumstances are bound to arise in our life. Sometimes we can avoid them, sometimes we can distract ourselves from them, but sometimes there is nowhere to run to and we have to just face them.

Meditation can help us practice in small ways for the larger difficulties that will arise.

The way to deal with difficulties in meditation is not to grit our teeth and bear them, but to look more closely at them and enter more deeply into them. Physical and emotional pain, when we look closely at it, is a series of sensations in the body and a series of thoughts. Generally we want to hold these at a distance. When we welcome these sensations and thoughts into our field of attention, look at them closely and without preconceptions, and enter into a more intimate relationship with them, we may find we can dance with them.

Sometimes they may transform. Sometimes they may disappear. Sometimes they may stay, but our relationship with them is different.

When a state of bliss arises, it is a good mediation. When a state of bliss does not arise, it is a good meditation. If you’ve had moments of awareness and awakeness, and moments of becoming intimate with your experience without preconceptions, you’ve had a good meditation.

When you feel you are trying too hard, and going nowhere, look into that. Who is trying? Trying to go where? In the end all that we have is this present moment. Not a story about the moment, but the bare reality of the moment. How deeply can we look into the moment. When we feel we are blocked can we look into that feeling of being blocked. Not taking for granted the story that there is a block, and someone that has to overcome that block, but looking freshly and innocently at what is going on in that moment?

It is exactly the same journey for all of us. Everything that I say here, I am saying for my own benefit. If you listen and hear something you can take away for yourself, please do so.

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One Response to ““Difficult” Meditation Sessions”

  1. One of my uses of meditating is to help me sleep. Getting to bed, and
    at least once in the early morning hours, I’ll find my mind completely
    awake and unable to calm down (usually related to physical issues). I
    find that if I “want” to get up from my sitting meditation, then it’s
    too early. My mind still hasn’t reached the state where it’s somewhat
    tamed. If I continue to sit through those states of “wanting” to get
    up, then eventually I’ll reach a state where I don’t want to get up.
    And that’s how I know that I can get up. At that point, when I go
    back to bed, I can bring my mind into a state of relaxation, and I
    fall asleep.

    If I don’t get out of bed and do my meditation, or if I allow myself
    to go back to bed before reaching this “calm” state, I will lie in bed
    for hours, and sometimes the entire night, without ever being able to
    calm my mind.

    I find when I’ve reached this “calm” state, my breath slows down into
    almost not breathing, my eyes stop feeling sleepy, and I no longer
    have to keep bringing my mind back to the center, it simply settles
    there.

    Also, when I’m working on difficult emotional problems, I find that
    this calm state is the place where I can go, and then when I come out
    of this place, I know that I’ve brought my mind back down to a “zero”
    foundation, and from there I can work on my issues with confidence
    that I’m dealing with them with the right motivation and right
    fundamental state of mind.

    One other thing about this “calm state”…. sometimes just reaching
    that state gives me pause to realize that everything else clouding my
    mind and my thinking and increasing my stress level was just fiction.
    It’s as though I can experience what life is like without the fiction,
    and it’s my proof that there is so much more beauty and happiness to
    be had that’s residing right here within myself, just waiting to be
    enjoyed. Once I get this recharge, then I can go back into the real
    world and acknowledge the fiction as just that.

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