There Will Be Times…

…when your meditation practice feels stunted. When your concentration falters every few moments. When you stare at the timer wondering to yourself why it doesn’t appear to be any closer to the end then when you looked at it three seconds ago. Does that mean you stop the timer, turn off the music, blow out the candles, douse the incense? My answer to that is no. You keep sitting. This lack of concentration can be a test to your practice. Can you continue to sit, even though you aren’t feeling successful? Can you lean into your feeling of failure and stay with the moment? You will never know if you get off your cushion before it’s time. As I’ve said in previous posts, you sit with the body and mind you have at this very moment. You do not try to make it something it cannot be. The more you force the more difficult and frustrating the process becomes. Sit with the frustration, see the practice to the end. Go back to your breathing as often as you need to (that may be every ten seconds and that’s ok). Once your practice has ended, contemplate where your challenges lie. If it’s one time that you are distracted, figure out what has you off kilter. Not enough water? Too much going on at work? Fight with a loved one? Too much caffeine? Too full? Too hungry? Headache, stomach ache, or other ailment? Then know for your next sitting what you need to change. If this is a continuing issue you will need to explore deeper. What series of challenges are holding you back from full concentration? What can you change? Are you sitting too late at night? Too early in the morning? Are you getting enough sleep? Is there a major project at work that you can’t get off your mind? Are you and your spouse fighting on a regular basis? There may be one or several issues that you will need to drill down into to ensure you can concentrate on your meditation. Even if the problem cannot be solved during this contemplation session, you still continue to sit in meditation practice. Do not give that up. Keep sitting, every day.

…when your relationships will feel unfulfilling. Does that mean you give up on friends, family, a spouse? No, you do not. You must sit with this feeling. You must get to the root of the issue. Where is this lack of fulfillment coming from? Are you not spending enough time together? Are you not spending enough time apart? Is your emotional life suffering? Is your sex life suffering? Where do you sense the problem lies? Everyone knows relationships take work. You cannot abandon them just because a snag has been hit. Your first step is to explore your feelings as they pertain to your unfulfilled relationship. If you cannot pinpoint from whence your own personal issues stem, then your partner, or friend, or loved one has no way of meeting you in the middle. Once you have ascertained your basic concerns and needs the dialogue must begin. Discuss everything openly and honestly, without judgement and without blame. And above all else, remain present in the moment. Remember, the conversation is the relationship.

…when emotions will over power you. Anger will spark. Jealousy will ignite. Depression will drown you. It is how you handle each of these that will effect you. Anger often stems from feeling out of control. When you accept that the only person you can control is yourself, then the anger diminishes. You will still have bouts of anger, but you will not let them control you. Jealousy often consumes because we wish to possess someone. The sooner we learn that we cannot possess anyone the easier our relationships will become. Life is filled with impermanence. The more you try to possess someone the more they will slip through your fingers like grains of sand. You must sit with this feeling of jealousy and find its root. What in your past has occurred that makes you wish to possess someone? Why do you desire to terminate their independence? You cannot be fulfilled if your jealousy is the only thing that forces someone to remain with you. Find where it comes from and work to change your perceptions. Depression often feels as though we’re drowning because it becomes all we can think about. Often depression is a chemical imbalance and there are many ways to combat that imbalance through therapy and medication (I utilize both myself). But, that is not the depression I am thinking about. I want to focus on the depression that occurs when we don’t get the promotion we wanted, or a relationship ends before we expected it to. Often times our depression grows from a disappointment of not getting what we had hoped. Buddhism teaches us that expectations cause suffering. If you were expecting to be the next vice president of your company and you are passed over, you suffer. If your spouse leaves you after your expectation was “till death do us part” you suffer. The question then becomes how do you battle these expectations. I remember the advice I was given over and over by my mentor when I was looking to be promoted in my retail job, “don’t worry about getting the next position, show how amazing you are at your current position, that’s when they’ll know you’re ready.” This proved to be great advice and has stuck with me, even as I practice now. We all want the best out of life, and I’m not saying don’t go out and try to get it. What I’m saying is don’t get so caught up in your expectations of how it has to be that you forget to give your best effort in the present moment. Don’t forget, it’s the only moment you have.

The key to each of the “whens” I’ve written about is to remain in the moment with each. Stay present with your meditation. Sit with the disappointments. Lean into the anger. Delve into your jealousy. Discover the root of your depression. Explore your expectations. Embrace your lack of fulfillment in your relationships. You cannot run away from any of these; they will give chase, they will catch you, and you’ll still have to deal with them. When you ferret out the root causes you will begin to find your way back to the right concentration you need. Don’t be afraid, it may be painful, but it’s worth the energy you put into it.

Namasté
Matthew

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