MOTIVATED TO MEDITATE
by Thay Z (Thich Minh Thien)
Recently at a Sangha I attend in Dallas, Texas, we had a discussion about the Practice of Meditation. I was asked how often I did meditation and did I find it difficult to maintain a regular practice. Others in the group also commented and their answers varied. Some of us responded, though admittedly not many, that we had a daily practice anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes in duration. The vast majority of the other's responses were of varying frequencies and durations. What did seem to be a common theme in the group was the overall perception that we all experience obstacles in maintaining a consistent routine of meditation. One of the most frequently mentioned obstacles was finding the time to meditate. Some of the reasons given were... life gets in the way ... I forgot ... I have priorities ... time just got away from me, etc. Some of the other obstacles mentioned were ... I can't seem to quiet my mind so I am more agitated after sitting ... my expectations for what I will get out of meditation just aren't met ... I use a variety of meditation techniques because just sitting is boring ... I get discouraged because it feels like I am doing it wrong ... there isn't a quiet place to sit in my house ... times that the Sangha sits are not conducive to my schedule, etc.
As each person shared their perceived obstacles I could remember feeling the same way. I don't think I can count the times that I would sit and meditate for a few days in a row and then for any number of reasons, the practice abruptly dropped off and I would not practice for a few days, or even longer. For me, always finding other things to do kept me from meditating. I'd make the intention to practice but because I didn't view it as a priority, I would later find some other activity that would seem to hold me back from meeting the intention.
I have experienced the beauty and benefit of the practice first hand. Conversely, not every meditation meets the delusions of expectations I sometimes have for meditating. I sometimes struggle finding the quiet and peaceful place each time I sit, until, I let go and see each meditation for what it is; namely, a gift to see what is real, even if it's a brief glimpse. What I do know is that the practice is good for me.
But I also know that choosing certain foods over others is good for me or that daily exercise is good for me too. And still I fail in making those better choices from time to time. What I have also discovered is I get caught in a revolving door of guilt when I don't make the better choices and that this guilt moves me further away from getting back to choosing what I know is a better choice. Anything that you have desired in your life probably didn't come easily. There were always obstacles, obstacles obstacles. If you wanted to be proficient at a sport or playing a musical instrument or being fluent in another language, they all required persistence and practice.
If you struggle with what my Sangha sisters and bothers and I identified as our obstacles, maybe you can relate to the solutions we came up with as well.
+ First and foremost, the Buddha tells us that each moment provides an opportunity to start anew. Drop the anchor of guilt that keeps us from moving forward and begin again.
+ Pick a time that is most conducive for you on a daily basis as the target for the time to meditate. Be realistic in the amount of time you can devote to meditation. Ten minutes daily will probably produce better results than only sitting for thirty minutes once a week.
+ Find a quiet place and designate it for your meditation. Wherever it is, make it yours. A small altar with a Buddha figure, a candle and a little incense creates a warm and inviting environment to enhance your practice; but remember, in a pinch you can meditate anywhere. Sometimes just closing an office door and taking ten minutes to breathe and meditate will do the trick.
+ And finally, just keep at it. View it as a gift. Live in Gratitude and notice the benefits that result from your meditation practice.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa