The Imperfect Meditator (Sound Familiar?)
A couple of weeks ago during a weekly practice group, a woman shared that she is having a difficult time meditating recently. “I keep looking at my watch,” she said.
Her comment resonated with me. Except that I don’t just start looking at my watch. I stop meditating altogether. It used to bother me. As soon I develop a meditation routine, as soon as it has a rhythm, it gets derailed. It’s so irritating. I used to be outright furious at my failure to maintain a good meditation practice. Now I just accept it. Mark always reminds us during guided meditation that “it’s OK to start again.” It’s always OK to start the practice again.
It’s actually useful that my practice gets periodically derailed. Sometimes, it’s a sign that I’ve folded it too neatly into my life – it becomes too compartmentalized. I don’t really look at the intention anymore. I’m checking meditation off the list. And at other times, it’s simply that the best I can do is a few moments of reflection or some writing. At these times, what’s difficult is to acknowledge my limits– to be OK with my quintessential imperfection.
Whenever I reproach myself for not meditating, not meditating enough, not meditating well enough, whenever I tell myself that I should, that I’m somehow failing, I try to look at the person who is wagging her finger and the person who finds clarity so difficult. What I find is very little compassion and much hardness. Staying with that hardness is what makes sense at these moments – using mindfulness as a universal solvent, as Mark once described it.
When I return to meditation, it’s rarely in the prodigal son (or daughter in my case) type of a way. It’s simply that I stumble upon the realization that it’s about things as they are and the desire to see things clearly. I actually want to meditate because I’m genuinely interested. And, secretly, I’m always relieved when I feel that way.
Of course, the question is, how do I maintain continuity in my practice through these ups and downs, how do I deepen my practice and how do I keep from rationalizing unskillful behavior as simply good-for-me-within-my-limits? What’s the balance between making myself meditate come hell or high water and allowing my meditation practice to evolve naturally?
For me, it’s about an intention. I have a deep intention to achieve non-attachment. This intention, however, is buried under layers and layers of humanness. I know I can’t just bulldoze my way through. I have work to do so on all levels of my being and sometimes what I need to focus on is something closer to the surface.
I do recognize, even during times of outright aversion to meditation, that meditation is good for me. And I do make myself maintain some continuity. One of them is coming to Common Ground. Sometimes, that’s all I ask of myself. I just ask myself to show up and ask myself to do whatever it is I’m capable of at that time. It makes sense.