August 26, 2014

What’s So Hard About Meditation? It’s Just Sitting There.


What’s so hard about just sitting?

I had a coffee date with a friend one morning, and I was planning on meeting her after my morning meditation.

For some reason, a lot of painful experiences came up for me during this meditation session, and hence, I was a little melancholy when I showed up for coffee.

My date sensed my sadness, and I tried to explain how it had nothing to do with her, and that I just had a rough meditation session.

“What could be so hard about it? Aren’t you just sitting there?” She asked.

It’s a fair question. For those who don’t meditate, I’m sure that aside from the possible boredom, sitting on a buckwheat filled cushion looks easy. However, those who have tried it, even for just a little while, know how incredibly difficult it can be.

It’s a crap shoot, every time we approach the cushion. We never know what we’re going to be facing once our monkey mind starts to rebel against being still. When we shut off the white noise of our constant mental chatter, our minds and egos are free to look through our emotional basement, and find all those things we’ve yet to process and deal with.

That’s not to say meditation is all doom and gloom—if it was, why would we do it?

Sometimes (although rarely in my case) we have those meditation sessions where everything seems to go perfectly, when our minds become still enough for us to see just how big everything is while simultaneously seeing just how small everything is. Sometimes we have moments when we feel like we’re “getting it,” when we’re growing spiritually, and we’re feeling good about all the time we’re spending on the cushion, when our teachers words are making sense to us, and when we experience something close to peace.

If it was like this all the time, everyone would be doing it.

Unfortunately, there are those times when it’s not so good. Like when a bad jingle gets stuck in your head and your brain spends twenty minutes singing “I like bumble bee, bumble bee tuna,” or when we replay every painful and mindless thing we said during the heat of the moment in an argument we long ago had. Those times when we ache for those whom we miss, or when we get the arch cramp that will not relax no matter what we do, or when our brain will not let go of a painful experience and rips the emotional scab off our wound causing it to bleed again.

There are the days when we wonder why we bother at all with this meditation thing.

Unfortunately we have no way of knowing which kind of session we’re going to have before we sit on the cushion. I’ve had days when I’ve felt depressed before meditation, where I’ve ended up feeing elated at the end of the session. This was not one of those days. I had woken up with the excitement of having coffee with my friend, and had plans which should have made for a great day, yet for some reason, my mind decided to pick this day to go to the dark places.

I tried to explain this to me friend, and she just laughed it off, asking me just how bad my dark places could possibly be, because I was such a “nice person.” Oh my dear…if you only knew.

It’s natural for us to try to avoid pain and suffering. When our hand gets too close to the fire, our natural reaction is to pull it away. Yet meditation asks us to let the heat pass over us, to be mindful of the sensation, and to hopefully let the flames forge us into something stronger than we were before.

It asks us to be able to examine any situation and say, This is happening, but I’m ok.

It asks us to understand the ephemeral and fleeting nature of our favorite moments. To let go of those things we want so desperately do not want to let go of, just as our loved ones will have to one day let us go. To take the extreme ends of our emotional spectrum, the beatific visions and nightmarish perspectives and everything in between…and just be with it.

What’s so hard about just sitting?

If you don’t know the answer to this, you really owe it to yourself to find out.




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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Flickr

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