Yesterday in my morning meditation .. I had this creative (or maybe crazy) idea to write a post each day this week sharing my meditation experience.
Firstly, creative ideas are a constant in my meditation journey .. I love having them bubble up, but they are really distracting in meditation; and secondly, I am not sure how to articulate such a personal experience as meditation, and I am not sure I want to get so deep that I miss the meditation experience because I am caught up in evaluating, considering, arguing or planning my next entry here.
But .. I enjoyed writing about yesterdays experience (see below entry) and I am up for the challenge.
Over the years I have learnt to trust that I can let those creative ideas pass knowing that if they are important they will catch up with me later in the day (or not). I acknowledged this morning that I would at the end of my meditation practice spend a few minutes sensing the 'flavour' of my morning practice .. which would inform what I might write about tonight.
So .. today's meditation was (luckily for our purposes) completely different from yesterdays.
Yesterday was gentle, still, open .. fluid.
This morning was all about body pain, tension, hardness .. tightness
Chalk and cheese as my grandmother might say.
I did not have a good nights sleep, dreamt of water (ie. dehydrated) and I overslept. Actually worse than oversleeping, I woke at my normal time 6am-ish and decided to have another go at the snooze button. Only I had turned my phone to silent, so I fell into a deeper sleep which tends to make me feel heavy, like I am dragging myself out of mud to wake up again.
And as soon as I settled into my meditation seat, I felt my back twitch in pain. And then my tummy grumbled. And my neck felt stiff. And my eyes were sore.
My body was talking (loudly) to me
My morning practice usually starts with a gentle scan of my body in order to settle into my posture and find that nice heavy 'like a mountain' stillness, when I might then shift my awareness to my breath, usually at the nostrils - my 'home base'.
In the Vipassana tradition we are told to hold our focus on our 'anchor/breath', and when distracted, notice that we have been distracted and then gently return to the next breath - one or one hundred times.
But if there is a distraction that keeps knocking you over (stronger and more insistent) then you may put down your breath-anchor and observe the distraction. In my case this morning .. the label I gave to my distraction was
When a strong mental state arises that distracts us from the object of our meditation, we can switch our attention to that distraction briefly - so it becomes the temporary object of you meditation.
We observe the distraction long enough to notice, what is it? where is it? does it shift or stay still? how long does it stay? and once we have a sense of the answers .. we return to the breath.
It is said that about 1/3rd of pain is caused by our indignity, annoyance, attachment or fear of the pain. Most of the general day-to-day pain (nothing serious, just aches and pains, momentary discomfort) will pass. In meditation we quickly learn that pain is also not an on/off switch but meanders, plays hide and seek with us, seems to amplify with focus or insidiously nag us when pushed away.
Meditation at its most fundamental is being present to the moment .. yum or yuk. We want to really be present to this moment, and if pain is present then we cultivate our ability to be present and open to that too. We want to be there for all sensations, emotions, feelings .. whether it is bliss, boredom, agitation, love, anger or even pain.
After a short while of noticing the pain within my body .. I also realised there was often a connection between the pain in my body and where my 'mind was at' (ie. a negative thought or feeling) .. OR I would catch a negative thought float through my mind and moments later felt a tightening in my body.
That was a wow moment!
So this morning I sat with my friend 'my breath' until I was distracted by some part of my body wanting attention. I observed the discomfort and sat with the sensation because it demanded my attention and then sure enough it would fade away and I would return to my breath.
Always returning to my breath
This is how we cultivate non-judgmental awareness of the present moment ie. Mindfulness.
Meditation (and mindfulness) grow through our practice ~ much like a muscle. So that every time you sit and meditate you are flexing, strengthening and growing that muscle to be a little stronger.
*However, if pain remains longer than it should, is sudden or simply will not allow you to return to focusing on your breath then acknowledge to yourself that this is not the best time for meditation and take steps to address your pain. No one is giving out medals for toughing it out!