THE USES (and challenges) OF MEDITATION…

So, a month ago, I started meditating again.

I haven't had a regular meditation practice in years (as many of you know, who have come to my events and asked me for meditation advice, only to see me shuffle and stammer and grin and apologize…)

I'm a disciplined person — why haven't I been able to keep a steady practice of meditation? Especially when I know all its benefits (emotional, physical, spiritual.)

Well, because it's difficult. But I'm not afraid of difficult things, so why haven't I been able to meditate every day. Here comes the truth: Because it's painful.

We all come to meditation in the beginning because we want a calmer mind, a happier life. But when you stop and look closely at the way your mind operates, it can be really scary to see what's going on in there.

The great meditation teacher Pema Chodron explains it this way: In our daily lives, our minds are like a pond with a surface rippled and troubled by waves and wind. When we meditate, the waves and the wind die down and the pond becomes calm…and that's when we can finally see under the surface of that clear, smooth water — which is when we can finally see all the industrial waste, dead bodies and twisted monsters who live beneath! And the reason we haven't wanted to look closely is because all of that stuff is really scary. And once you see it, you have to start cleaning it out.

Sometimes it's easier not to look.

This is why meditation surprises us, when we are new to it. We think it will bring us peace, but sometimes it just focuses our attention on stuff we really don't want to see. But ultimately what meditation should do is teach us to practice compassion — for our own intrinsic madness, and also for the madness of others.

Because we all live in a weird pond. As Pema says, "Passion, aggression and ignorance are known to all human beings." And we begin to know ours, we can be more gracious to outer people on account of theirs…and maybe even more forgiving of ourselves, and understanding of the difficult places where we get stuck and lost and scared.

And that understanding, we hope, will make us shed our anger, our fear, our sorrows, our confusion.

So I'm back in the game, you guys. Back in the pond. I've meditated every day for the last month — just 20 minutes a day — and I'm committed to keeping it up for the year.

I would love to hear from any of you today about your meditation practices — or lack of! Share your tips, your fears, your links to great teachings, your experiences.

Let's all go pond-diving together!


via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall