One of the things to be aware of when you practice is what it feels like in those rare moments where your inner urge to talk dies down, and you experience a moment of real silence.
For the part of my awareness, ‘that knows’ to silently watch the breath, letting everything else go.
To practice returning to my breath each time I realize that my awareness has moved onto something else, no matter what that other thought or feeling is.
If you feel hungry when you are meditating, it may be better to eat first and then attempt it again once you have digested your food and are feeling more content. Meditating while you are still digesting your food can lead to drowsiness.
If your mind is preoccupied with sexual thoughts during your meditation, it may be better to satisfy yourself sexually first and then return to meditating or wait until the sexual desire has passed.
If you feel drowsy when you are meditating, it may be better to sleep first and return to your sitting session when you feel more alert. Coffee or tea can help.
I found that even moderate amounts of alcohol had a negative effect on my meditation even for a couple of days after having one or two drinks.
Build faith in your practice, based on your results.
I took the view, which I still do a lot of things that it’s probably rubbish so I’ll need to prove it to myself from the ground up. Once I started making some progress toward bringing the mind into the present moment, I realized it had a beneficial effect on my thinking process even when I wasn’t meditating. That meant I could trust that it was possible to train my mind to be more in the present moment, which increased the likelihood that it was possible for the constant self-talking to calm down a bit. When the self-talking did start to calm down a bit, then the possibility increased I may be able to watch my breath silently in the present moment.
Let your practice grow as naturally as a friendship does.
A friendship should grow because both people have an interest in spending time together. Maybe two people only have a brief contact in the beginning, once a week or once a month. If they don’t see each other for four months it doesn’t matter, the friendship will pick up again where it left off. If you spend a month genuinely practicing for 10 minutes a day and then stop for four months, it will only take you a couple of days to get back to where you left off.
If I ever got too stressed out or lost my “inner centeredness” I would meditate again for a few days until I was relaxed and centered again. But then I realized that when I stop meditating, life seems to stand still again, and when I do meditate I begin to grow again, life becomes more dynamic. So the decision to develop a more regular practice occurred because direct experience showed it was more beneficial than intermittent practice.
When you have had some experience with meditation, it is easier to do it every day.
At first it is easy to skip a day or two or three because of some negative feeling that has arisen. You can use the tools of acknowledgment; acceptance and letting go to move past negative feelings a lot quicker than you would otherwise.
Take anger, you may be pissed off about something someone you know is doing or is not doing. There will be a whole stream of self-talk going on inside your mind that legitimizes your sense of anger. If the anger comes up in the afternoon in a strong way, it may mean you don’t feel like meditating that evening. You might be thinking about the issue for a few hours, and then you’re not exactly in the mood to sit down and relax.
There are whole ranges of strong emotions that can seem to have the power to stop us from wanting to sit down and meditate. Meditation can take you back to being relaxed and calm instead of having to submit to the negative feeling, such as anger, for hours, by using the tools you have been learning.
Sometimes we enjoy the negative feelings, so we keep fuelling them with our self-talk by repeatedly going over the reasons for the feeling in the first place.
Recently I was feeling angry about something someone close to me was not doing. The feeling of anger was getting slowly stronger as I continued to run the whole thing through in my mind. I felt very justified to be feeling angry, but after a while a small thought popped up such as “do you want to continue feeling angry?” The answer was “no”.
At that point in time, the feeling was too strong to just “let it go”. It wasn’t going anywhere, so it meant going back to the start of the process. Firstly to acknowledge what I am thinking and feeling at the present moment. I am clearly feeling angry, and my self-talk is all about the reasons why my anger is justified. Now that I have acknowledged what is there in my mind, I can move to the second step of letting it be. It’s a bit like driving a car on the highway and then putting the gears in neutral; I am no longer engaging with the self-talk about why I am so pissed off. Just bringing the awareness to observe the feeling that is there without trying to change it.
I am feeling angry right now, and that’s OK, I am allowed to feel this emotion, and I am not harming anyone because I am not doing any actions to anyone while feeling this way. I still can’t let the feeling go because that would feel like forcing it, which just makes the feeling stronger. But I give the feeling the acceptance that it’s allowed to be there, without engaging in the self-talk that fuelled the feeling in the first place. With some time, the feeling just fades away, and in its place are a couple of small insights, different perspectives that help to let go of it all. The person will do or not do the thing, but now I have a choice not to be as emotionally affected by that outcome.
A peaceful setting can help.
When I was first learning to meditate with the breath, I stayed at Buddha-Bodhivana Monastery in the hills East of Melbourne for a few days at a time. I found it was very helpful to stay in a naturally quiet and peaceful setting because it helped to highlight the fact that all the activity going on was in my mind.
Ajahn Kalyano had no problem with me staying at the monastery even though I wasn’t Buddhist. Even though I had a basic idea of what to do when I started, I still ended up having a lot of questions. As I went along, he was very helpful in reducing my confusion and doubt about what exactly I should be doing (or not doing) when learning to watch the breath. And for that I will always be grateful.
The introduction to meditation talk Ajahn Kalyano gives at the end of every month is still one of the best talks on how to meditate I have ever seen. It’s not some little free introduction to a $4,000 12-week meditation course. It’s him speaking from experience on everything he knows that will help you become very good at meditation.
In time, I found that the peaceful surroundings weren’t so critical to me as the peace was starting to grow on the inside from the practice.
You practice bringing your attention into the present moment. You let your self-talk calm down and become quieter (by letting it do this if and when it wants to), you may notice insights begin arising in your mind.
Our lives are full of problems and unmet needs. Our past may contain physical and emotional accidents. And our future can be like a play that we want to direct, but most of the actors can’t be found or don’t follow our directions.
Our view of these problems in our life can change as we develop a quiet place in our mind, by being with our breath and letting everything else go.
The insights that can arise from being with our breath increase the more we develop that quiet space in our mind.
Can spending time with your breath cause your mind to come up with solutions to problems in your life?
Please question everything here to find out for yourself whether it’s true or false.