Our lives are busy. And even when they’re not busy, we tend to habitually busy ourselves with things: books, television, internet, physical activity, idle chatter. Rarely are we completely still and silent, except perhaps just before we fall asleep. Even then some of us have the tv on, or music, or white noise.
If and when we do decide to be completely still and quiet we may not really like it all. We may think it’s uncomfortable, annoying, even agonizing. We might think we can’t possibly be still and quiet.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say (and how many times I myself said) ‘Not me. I can’t meditate. My brain won’t stop. It’s just the way my mind works. It’s just the way I am.’
Just the way I am…
We think of ourselves as a certain type of person. We put ourselves into these boxes. External events occur, external forces act upon us, and we react in our own personal pre-programmed ways.
But when we meditate, we slowly (very slowly) deprogram ourselves. We begin to realize that even when we are alone, still and quiet, with no external forces, feelings arise. All alone, quiet, and still, all of these things arise.
Discomfort will arise. Frustration will arise. Boredom will arise. Anger. Sadness. Fear. Confusion. Gratitude. Joy will arise.
But none of those things are what we are. We are just sitting and just breathing. Our thoughts are rising up like weather systems. And they bring feelings along with them.
Our initial reaction may be to get up. To move. To go and busy ourselves with the next busy thing. But the work is done when we just sit and just breathe. The real work is done when we acknowledge what arises, feel it, and breathe.
When discomfort arises, feel it. Where is it? In your lower back? Your hips? Your knees? Sit with it and think to yourself, discomfort feels like this. When frustration arises, feel it. Where is it? In your chest? Your jaw? Breathe and think to yourself, frustration feels like this.
When anxiety arises, feel it. Where is it? In your stomach? On your skin? Breathe into it and think to yourself anxiety feels like this.
When fear arises, sit and breathe. Fear feels like this. When anger arises, sit and breathe. Anger feels like this. When sadness arises, or joy, or gratitude, sit and breathe. These things feel like this.
After practicing you will realize you are not an angry person. But sometimes anger arises. You are not an anxious person but sometimes anxiety arises. You are not any of those things, but all of those things can arise, and you can feel all of those things, because this is the nature of being a person.
Over time you will know that you can feel these things, and sit with them and breathe into them, and then you can learn to let them pass or you can learn to hold onto them.
You may then realize that you are not an angry person but you are holding onto the feeling of anger. You are not an anxious person, but you are holding onto the feeling of anxiety. You are not a joyful person but you are holding onto the feeling of joy.
You are not always any one thing, but you are always human.
Meditation is like this.
Set a timer for two minutes. Close your eyes and focus your attention on the nostrils. Notice every thought and every feeling that arises during those two minutes. Returning to your nostrils if you begin to hold onto a thought. Wandering and returning again and again. Do this every day. Continue adding another minute whenever you are ready.