Life can be so out of control, we don't even know how to stop. As a single mom, running a yoga studio, I barely had time to eat, much less meditate, and when I did sit down, my mind was anything but quiet. All the to-do lists would fire off as soon as I closed my eyes and it was all I could do to just sit and not start scribbling notes. So if you are beginning a meditation practice, don't be surprised if all manner
of discomfort and distraction show up when you stop and try to get
Over the years, though, sitting through these thrashing mental waves, I have learned to trust the process of practice. Almost anyone who has practiced some form of physical (hatha) yoga will attest that after an hour on the mat, you usually feel better than when you began. And it's true for yoga meditation as well, even if your time on the cushion feels restless.
This is why trust is required. Meditation does not give instant gratification. If you go into it with this expectation, you will surely be disappointed. It is an endeavor that gets better over time and results show up in subtle ways. However, if you continue to practice with dedication, concentration and intention, big benefits will arrive and your life will be forever changed for the good.
It Takes Time
You are sitting by a placid lake and you throw in a rock. Ripples radiate and it takes time for the stillness of the water to return. Your innate peaceful consciousness is that placid lake, but you are constantly throwing rocks of disturbance into it through the sensory experiences of life. So, when you approach meditation and ask the mind and the body to get quiet, it takes a while for the ripples of sensation and thought to settle.
The Yoga Sutras call this yogas chitta vritti nirodha -- restraining the fluctuations of the mind, so that pure awareness or consciousness can return. Because the ego-centered, individualized consciousness does not want to let go of being in charge, these fluctuations take more than minutes, hours or days to quiet down. It can take months of determined focus to find the tranquil place of your true nature again.
(Here's more in-depth information on 'Yogas Chiita Vritti Nirodha.')
TRUST. Inner peace will come and it is worth the journey! Even one moment of this peace brings such relief from the stressors of life. And it leaves an indelible impression of assurance that a profound goodness lies within and around you. Having experienced this sweetness of true Self, the habit of meditation begins to form and each time you sit, you glean more and more inner equanimity and joy.
Keep Focused With Dharana
The Yoga Sutras also give a technique to facilitate this journey. The technique of cultivating single-pointed focus on one aspect of the Divine in whatever way you perceive it is called dharana. It is essential to retraining the mind to move into the necessary stillness of meditation. As a point of focus, you could pay attention to your breath because the Divine is within and the Source of each breath we take. Or you could focus on an element of nature such as light that illumines the world around you and gently seek the point of light within at the third eye. If you are religious, you could focus on a teacher like Jesus or Krishna and dwell on the spiritual qualities they exemplify.
For most people, whatever focus they choose, it will burn strong for a few seconds like the last blaze of a sunset and then it is gone, replaced by daily thoughts. Don’t worry. This is normal. Just return to trust and refocus on what you have chosen. Concentration muscles are not built in one day. And just like the sunset that will come again tomorrow, you will have another opportunity tomorrow to sit and practice. The key is to show up with undaunted enthusiasm and let go of the desire to accomplish anything in meditation. If you let go of any expectation of results, then you can simply experience the moment. You can trust that it is enough and that by simply showing up to your meditation practice, benefits are accruing and will be felt over time.
Have an Intention of Giving
Finally, if you can come to meditation with the intention of giving rather than getting, then it becomes even sweeter. Offer your attention and devotion to something greater than yourself. With consistent, sincere practice you will find the ego mind getting quieter and struggling less with every turn of life that doesn’t go your way.
I have learned to trust in my meditation practice, and this in turn helps me trust what life is bringing. By seeking stillness and peace each day within my own being, I am better able to approach daily life with calm acceptance and a peaceful heart and mind.
(You may also be interested in reading 6 Steps to Starting a Meditation Practice for Beginners.)