Meeting the Meditation Challenge

by Milissa on February 27, 2012

in Breath,Meditation,Mindfulness,Philosophy,Quotation,Transformation

I am so glad I threw down the gauntlet last month on a 40 Day Meditation Challenge. I challenged myself, with the hope that my blog and Facebook subscribers might decide to take it too. The challenge was simply this: Practice meditation a minimum of 5 minutes a day for 40 days. No specific time, place, technique, agenda, dogma. JUST. DO. IT.

Well, there’s nothing  actually to do. Just sit. Just breathe.

So have I met the challenge? So far, yes! I’m over a month into having a regular sitting practice again. Has it been easy? [choke, gasp, wheeze] Uh. No.

The time hasn’t been an issue. A mere 5 minutes a day is doable, that’s why I set it up that way. And it hasn’t been hard for my body, propped with pillows and wrapped in a blanket on my bed, when I sit just before getting up in the morning.

The issue has been my own freakin’ wildass Monkey Mind. It basically never stops these days. Life has been throwing down the gauntlet ever since the 40 Day Meditation Challenge began. Family issues, health challenges, you name it.

Fear, grief and anger have loomed large. The second circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno comes to mind, where the two-timing lovers Paolo and Francesca are doomed to be tossed about endlessly in their own whipped up emotions. The Italian verse captures the feeling so well: “Di qua, di là, di giù, di sù li mena.” (“It hither, thither, downward, upward, drives them.”) For them the “it” was lust.

William Blake, The LoversThe "It" is lust.

For me, on the meditation cushion, any strong feelings or turbulent thoughts can get me whipped into a frenzy that makes it hard to stay put. But I have.

I’ve felt tossed around, yes. But, still—given my pledge—I have sat. Sometimes for 5 minutes. Most days for longer than that. And for much of the time my mind has been going a hundred miles a minute.

Would I have stayed in my seat if I hadn’t committed to this practice for 40 days? With all that inner disturbance just waiting to grab my full attention once I got on the cushion? Are you kidding me?

But I took the pledge. Publicly. If I couldn’t do it, how could I expect my students to hang in? So every day I’ve sat for 5 minutes or 15 or 20.

Have I learned to quiet my mind? To still the churning of thoughts and feelings? To calm the chitta vrittis, as they’re called in Sanskrit?

Excuse me, I just spit out the water I was drinking…

No, I have not stilled my mind. But I’ve learned to sit anyway. By removing all pressure to not have thoughts. I’ve learned, as Pema Chodron teaches, to let the thoughts and feelings be the object of my meditation. Breathing with them. Just noticing the thoughts and feelings. No resistance.

The biggest aha? I’m learning to let go of the story behind the thoughts. And the urgency to act on them. As I do, they almost become like white noise. Definitely there, but not as much in the foreground.

Practicing meditation is helping me to accept whatever is present. Including challenging thoughts and feelings. And that has helped me to keep showing up. On the meditation cushion. And when life gets shaky. I’m happy I’m learning to meet the challenge.

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