This week Heather looked at the How Best to Learn Meditation in her Science and Mindfulness Blog – it was really helpful to see the different types of meditation and what benefits they have. As Heather said in her blog, there is scant scientific data to tell us what is the best way to meditate, and sometimes, well science just doesn’t and can’t have all the answers to everything? Science can’t even begin to tell you how I feel about my children, on the good days (and the bad days!). It might be able to measure tension in my muscles or see that my blood pressure has gone up, or that I am fired up in the ‘mothering’ section of my brain. How about fear, anxiety, dread, hilarity, irony, joy and anticipation, can science detect these nuances of the human condition? Can it tell me that I really need to go for a walk? That my dream is trying to tell me something? Or how hungry I feel? Or what that urge for another glass of wine feels like…..?
And so Heather describes the type of meditation and which human condition that may help us with. But when I signed up for meditation I had No Idea at all what was going to happen to me and my brain. I could not conceive of the changes it would make to me and my behaviour – my relationships, my state of being in the world. It is impossible to explain or describe what might happen for you. You might get bored straight away and then tell everyone it’s rubbish. You may have a life changing insight on your first session. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you.
The list of different practices and what we might gain from each of these practices shows that Mindfulness is not one thing. It is banded about as a heal-all one size-fits-all term, but no, the ancient traditions of meditation described many different practices for many different approaches to suit different personality and character types. In education there is a lot of talk about learning styles well it’s the same for meditation; and like that – we can get stuck on one type of mediation that we ‘like’, avoiding those we don’t so much (for me this was mindful movement and bodyscan! No! don’t make me do that!) and I have learned over the years there is a lot to be learned from noticing these aversions and resistances to things….they are signposts for sure – about where I needed to go. These practices were transformative for me once I had learned to ‘lean in’ to the resistance.
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.” – Zen Proverb
Mindfulness as a term is like saying Cheese. There is a whole cheeseboard out there to suit your particular recipe. But try to use edam on your pizza instead of mozzarella and you’re going to be disappointed. And if you’re a vegan, then you might need a different approach altogether. The No-Cheese approach. Sounds very Zen!
I have experienced different stages and types of realization in my meditation, and definite preferences to different types. At times resistant to compassionate colour at other times it’s my go-to practice. Sometimes nothing much happens as I sit in the moment open to whatever arises. Sometimes a feeling of immense gratitude comes bounding in the door. Another day a tsunami of emotion erupts about I don’t-know-what. I have learned that if I have a sticky situation or feeling that is causing rumination then RAIN works for me and I actively go and find my seat. Each day is so different each practice can be like chalk or cheese. Back to cheese again. Have I got cheese on the mind? Am I hungry? Oh I’m off again.
The MBLC APP, link below, is brilliant for having a wide variety of practices to hand.
Human experience is nebulous – ever changing; my impressions, judgements and understanding of you and the meaning of the words you are saying might change every couple of seconds throughout our conversation, so much so that the continual judgement-making can make the mind wander off and suddenly I’m not even listening any more. Mindfulness in daily life this week has shown me how rude my mind is! Is it me or can I just blame my mind? This week I feel that I am accountable. I am studying on Fay Adam’s Inquiry Course and we are practicing ‘Active Listening’ – so I’m going to fess up right here right now about how rude my mind is and what it did.
This week I noticed this a few times. Perhaps because it is the active practice at the moment. The Gardener (Him Outdoors) was talking to me at the kitchen table probably giving me the day’s news roundup, and I was gone. I was even looking at him, and nodding and able to say uh-hu but had no idea what he had said. Oof so Mindless! So ‘rude’! But my mind just went off.. I could justify saying well, that’s just what the mind does… but actually with all the practice I have done, that’s a bit of a cop out! Sorry, I drifted off, I had a really alive internal storyline going on about something completely different which made me completely DEAF to his words…that is the truth, I have a notion of the sounds he was making and knew when to say ‘uh-hu’ what an incredible feat of the mind in multitasking ( badly) – and isn’t that an insight right there?
But can I admit that? My egoic system is reluctant to declare my rudeness. That’s another blog.
Mindfulness training has given me this; an ability to catch myself and my subtle patterns of behaviour, as well as many other benefits, personal to me, and too numerous to itemise. I’m not sure if I signed up to meditation thinking I was going to be calling myself out every five minutes !– what DID I sign up for and how different is it to what I thought meditation was? This may take some consideration. Compassion Training is key to negotiating the stormy inner waters we may find ourselves in, the mindfulness is the compass, the compassion the fuel that keeps me strong enough to face any inner storm.
When I started mindfulness meditation I didn’t know what a job I would have on my hands. I kind of thought mindfulness was about drifting, and clouds, and feeling calm, and space, and emptiness.
It wasn’t long before I could see that I was a hopeless case – my mind was way too busy, too messy, too out of control! But that is exactly what happens – we go from what the Buddhists might term ‘ignorance’ what Rob Nairn would say as being lost in the undercurrent. I did not know there was a way to climb out of that river, or even that I was lost in a river of consciousness in the first place.
I had a teacher that once said to me, if you want to understand the nature of your mind, you wont find the answers I books. Yu can buy the whole library and you wont learn a thing. You just need to sit on the cushion.
“So what is a good meditator? The one who meditates.”- Allan Loko
This week in the Weekly Challenge, I invite you to ask yourself, ‘what is it I hope to gain from my Mindfulness practice?’ Write those things down in your diary or on a sticky note as a way of supporting yourself to stay focused. Notice if you have any expectations around your practice, and any disappointment you may feel. If this arises use a self-compassion practice to allow the feelings to be there, and remind yourself these are subtle thoughts, and let them go.
Just being able to be present during a conversation with near and dear ones is a simple yet wonderful gift. This will be my practice this week. See if you can offer this to those you may come into contact with. Read Heather’s blog to look at the different practices and how they may benefit you. Find a meditation that is either your least favourite meditation practice or one that answers a particular need for you this week – and stick with it this week.
Our Free Mindfulness Based Living APP is a great resource to have to hand. Try a practice you haven’t tried yet, or your least favourite one. My wish is that you have time this week to really engage with your practice and that it may benefit you and those around you, opening to a more peaceful, compassionate and understanding way of being.