Learning to meditate is truly tough – in large part because of our expectations about what it is and the consequent lack of success in doing it. These expectations are born due primarily to what little we know about meditation, all the hype it receives, and the glowing long list of its benefits. The truth is it is much simpler and, at the same time, much more difficult than most of what you read. So I am always pleased to read things that truly explain what it is to meditate. The following is from my current favorite read Looking at Mindfulness by Cristophe André.
“In reality, what we call thinking or reflecting is not producing thoughts (that work is beyond our will or intervention), but sorting and organizing them, putting them into a hierarchy, trying to focus on some and develop them, while trying to banish others. This is why it is pointless to hope meditation will lead us quickly, and to order, to a kind of mental silence or absence of thoughts. This does sometimes happen, but only for a moment now and then. Then the chatter starts up again. . . . .”
Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales
“. . . . Mindfulness work on thoughts simply means being aware of the irrepressible chatter of the mind and its power to draw us in. A moment comes when we are no longer observing our thoughts, but in them, carried away. We must then return calmly to our breathing, and then to observing our thoughts. Gradually the difference between ‘thinking something’ and ‘noticing that we are thinking something’ becomes clear.”
Live oaks and Spanish Moss on Hilton Head Island
André is delightfully honest and poetic in his descriptions. The “irrepressible chatter” is such an apt way to put it. No questions what he is talking about and it certainly lowers your expectations.
I am just a newbie at this so maybe it gets easier to avoid drifting into thought. But if you go in expecting a blank mind, you will quickly be disappointed and frustrated. And if my experience is “normal”, getting to a calm mind will be a long time coming.
If you can stay with it there is something quite compelling about it. I am having physical sensations I’ve not had before, there are periods of intense focus, my attention does get absorbed at times. (And then there’s all the chatter!) It is hard to describe the benefits and the whys for me other than to say I enjoy it, find it worthwhile, particularly at this stage of life where life is an exploration with no boundaries. Too, I just feel a call to do it. I am also the beneficiary of my extraordinary teacher who has been guiding me as I go along. Having her support has been invaluable.
It is, for me, both being and becoming. In meditating I am attempting to be. And it is a new form of becoming – post career. Kind of fun.
Planning the day of adventure in Melbourne, Australia