Stillness vs. Stagnation

Tonight I sit in meditation for the first time in weeks. I was frustrated with an inability to focus during my last attempt and I then became distracted by a number of projects I’ve been working on. Though having a consistant meditating practice is a goal of mine, I’ve been as neglectful of this aspect of my life as I have been of writing.
I light a stick of incense and drink a mouthful of cold water. I sit in an old, red rocking chair that belonged to my grandparents and begin with some breathing mindfulness, the technique that best helps me clear and still my mind at the start. The subtle smoke fills my nose and then is drawn down into my lungs. Counting deep breaths on a mala, I clear away thoughts and direct my attention to the intake of air. I soon move on to some other focuses, not struggling at all to be in the moment. This attempt is starting much better than the last so I begin to settle into the stillness.
My memory of the meditation stops there and I’m aware time has passed without me being conscious of it. I open my eyes and see some incense I was burning has come to the end of its smoky release. I don’t feel like I’ve been sleeping but that must be it. I slipped into a short slumber and eased out of it without being aware of either.

One of my biggest obsticles in meditating is falling asleep as I become calm and relaxed. It seems I allow myself to be kept from prolonged meditation by a lack of focus that either prevents me from starting or leads to me sleeping through the time I have dedicated to the meditation. I’m committed to the practice of meditation but at times I become frustrated by this. I will have to find a way to work around my limitation.

One source of help I’ve encountered is Mole, a blog by someone I gather is of the Vajrayanan branch of Buddhism. The author shared two pieces that I found to be insightful and useful for my own meditation practice. In “Confessions” the topic is the false notion that one “can’t meditate.”

There are a few people who really can’t or shouldn’t do quiet meditation — there are a few conditions, physical and mental, that make it impossible or inadvisable. But these are very rare.

If you’ve discovered that you can’t meditate, you have already learned the first of the only two things meditation has to teach you, to wit, that your mind is not under your control. There is only one thing more to learn. (No, not that it can be under your control. It will never be under your control. Give that up, it’s a lost cause.) The second thing meditation has to teach you, is that the mind can be still. “You” can’t make it hold still, because “you” are the problem. But it can be still. Put the conditions in place, and eventually — eventually — it will become still. As you practice, it will become still more easily, it will quiet down faster and it will stay quiet longer. It’s not a linear progression, not by any means, but it is a reliable progression.

How to be Uncomfortable” talks of how we become distracted by discomfort during meditation and how to work with this.

You go just a little past comfortable. Not a lot. It doesn’t have to be a lot; in fact it shouldn’t be a lot, usually. And a little past comfortable won’t be the same on Thursday as it was on Wednesday. Some days letting a fly walk around on my face might be just past comfortable — some days that might be unendurable. On those days, “just past comfortable” might be sitting still when a fly buzzes past my ear. Or even, sitting still when I know it’s in the room. Objective measures are useless. Which is good, because it means that wherever my mind is, whatever state I’m in, I can always “find the stretch.”

An eventual goal of mine is to be able to sit in a Lotus position, a position most who have not meditated will associate with meditation. My legs are not supple enough to do much more than conventional crossed leg sitting so I’ll need to do some conditioning with some sort of stretching routine. While my interest in yoga is peripheral for now, the yoga site Moving Into Stillness has provided me with some stretches that I will be working on to achieve my goal of sitting in lotus. You’ll find diagrams and descriptions at “A Few Asanas – Lotus.”

Wellness and personal evolution are processes that can be very daunting and challenging. The reward is worth every effort and setback because the reward is ultimately contentment and wholeness.

12 comments on “Stillness vs. Stagnation

  1. Nice Post.
    To prevent your mind from falling asleep during meditation you definitely want to sit cross-legged with an erect spine.
    Use big pillows if necessary.
    Good practice.

  2. Hi there… thanks for yr post… visiting via blogexplosion…
    I wrote something on mediation this past week.. just can't remember whether it was in my blog or one of the pages I wrote that I haven't yet posted… LOL!!! 😉

    I've tried quite a few meditation techniques. The basic purpose of meditation is increasing awareness of yourself as a multi-dimensional being.

    When you think you 'fall asleep' you are really just in a state of rest. Falling asleep during meditation is very good… it usually means that your body needs and enjoys the 'extra' opportunity to… sleep… something that most of us don't do often enough!!! 😉

    PLEASE don't berate yourself for not concentrating or 'focusing' enough… or for falling asleep.

    Meditation allows you to build trust in your own process, to tune in to All That You Really Are.

    Judging and condemning yourself and 'forcing' yourself to 'focus' hinders this process.

    As you become more regular in your meditation practice, you will fall asleep less. Remember, as you meditate and 'lose memory of time' you are actually busy experiencing aspects of your self other than your everyday 3-D self. Rejoice! This is great!!!

    Love and blessings again for your post and enjoy your meditation process. It is so wonderful for allowing you to incorporate your Divinity Within into your 'normal, waking' life. 😉

    Espavo.

  3. Hi there… thanks for yr post… visiting via blogexplosion…
    I wrote something on mediation this past week.. just can't remember whether it was in my blog or one of the pages I wrote that I haven't yet posted… LOL!!! 😉

    I've tried quite a few meditation techniques. The basic purpose of meditation is increasing awareness of yourself as a multi-dimensional being.

    When you think you 'fall asleep' you are really just in a state of rest. Falling asleep during meditation is very good… it usually means that your body needs and enjoys the 'extra' opportunity to… sleep… something that most of us don't do often enough!!! 😉

    PLEASE don't berate yourself for not concentrating or 'focusing' enough… or for falling asleep.

    Meditation allows you to build trust in your own process, to tune in to All That You Really Are.

    Judging and condemning yourself and 'forcing' yourself to 'focus' hinders this process.

    As you become more regular in your meditation practice, you will fall asleep less. Remember, as you meditate and 'lose memory of time' you are actually busy experiencing aspects of your self other than your everyday 3-D self. Rejoice! This is great!!!

    Love and blessings again for your post and enjoy your meditation process. It is so wonderful for allowing you to incorporate your Divinity Within into your 'normal, waking' life. 😉

    Espavo.

  4. Nice Post.
    To prevent your mind from falling asleep during meditation you definitely want to sit cross-legged with an erect spine.
    Use big pillows if necessary.
    Good practice.

  5. Hi: I hope this post finds you well and ensconced in the heart of peace and joy. Your experience on the rocking chair is classic! One basic approach to mindfulness meditation that you can follow is to count the breaths. Two approaches here: 1) you can count 1 to 10 and at 10 return to 1, or 2) count 0-9 and at 9 return to 0. Both seem easy until you find yourself at 20 and realize that you were not paying attention! Remember that recognition that you've been “away” is a great moment of mindfulness in itself! Smile to yourself and gently bring your self back to the breathing. After a while of counting you will develop more focus. If counting becomes a hindrance for you, try something else: instead of sitting to meditate, light the incense and prepare yourself a nice cup of tea (or coffee) and sip it softly, taking a sip and then taking two or three mindful breaths in between each sip. You can do one breath in between if you like. In any case, build your mindfulness around every activity, that way you don't have to wait until sitting in the rocking chair! A rocking chair would also make me fall asleep rather quickly! Like some of the others, I found your site via Blog Explosion. Pretty cool! Thanks, and come visit when you have a chance (woodmoorvillage.org)

  6. Hi: I hope this post finds you well and ensconced in the heart of peace and joy. Your experience on the rocking chair is classic! One basic approach to mindfulness meditation that you can follow is to count the breaths. Two approaches here: 1) you can count 1 to 10 and at 10 return to 1, or 2) count 0-9 and at 9 return to 0. Both seem easy until you find yourself at 20 and realize that you were not paying attention! Remember that recognition that you've been “away” is a great moment of mindfulness in itself! Smile to yourself and gently bring your self back to the breathing. After a while of counting you will develop more focus. If counting becomes a hindrance for you, try something else: instead of sitting to meditate, light the incense and prepare yourself a nice cup of tea (or coffee) and sip it softly, taking a sip and then taking two or three mindful breaths in between each sip. You can do one breath in between if you like. In any case, build your mindfulness around every activity, that way you don't have to wait until sitting in the rocking chair! A rocking chair would also make me fall asleep rather quickly! Like some of the others, I found your site via Blog Explosion. Pretty cool! Thanks, and come visit when you have a chance (woodmoorvillage.org)

  7. I am still an egg at meditation, but I've found it very helpful to count half breaths as a whole breath is too long for my poor trained mind. I count 1 on the in breath, 1 on the out, 2 on the in, 2 on the out, etc…

    I usually start over at the count of 4. I actually am making progress in that I rarely find myself at 5 (or 50) anymore.

    Great post – I hope you keep posting more on your progress. It helps me with mine.

    mw

  8. Thank you all for your comments. I value the advice and encouragement.

    MW, I do intend to post more on my progress when I find something I feel compelled to write about.

  9. I am still an egg at meditation, but I've found it very helpful to count half breaths as a whole breath is too long for my poor trained mind. I count 1 on the in breath, 1 on the out, 2 on the in, 2 on the out, etc…

    I usually start over at the count of 4. I actually am making progress in that I rarely find myself at 5 (or 50) anymore.

    Great post – I hope you keep posting more on your progress. It helps me with mine.

    mw

  10. Thank you all for your comments. I value the advice and encouragement.

    MW, I do intend to post more on my progress when I find something I feel compelled to write about.

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