Love Your Pain!!
Most people, as they go through the process of learning how to meditate, pass through a number of stages, some pleasant, some unpleasant. And my view is, no matter whether pleasure or pain, all these stages are good and right to be happening. They arise naturally as your mind acclimatizes itself to stillness.
In learning to let go of your reactions to everything, you’re surrendering your mind and body to their own processes while you keep your meddlesome attention as detached as possible on the breath. But as you practice, like learning to ride a bike, you gradually get the knack of keeping your attention delicately balanced on the breath – and stillness begins to occur.
Nevertheless your attention, will struggle as the mind and body slowly acclimatize themselves to the this new environment – which is why we have the meditation methods – to help you navigate the struggle whenever it happens. But for the methods to work, you must accept struggle as an inevitable and integral part of the training.
So what do I mean by struggle?
Well, think about all the things that annoy you as you meditate – compulsive thinking and daydreaming, aches, restlessness, boredom, frustration and even pain. We tend to regard these things as impediments in meditation. We think ‘something is wrong’ and we wonder what we are doing wrong – because ‘meditation is not working’.
Not so. These apparent disturbances are not wrong. They are right. They are a natural result of mind and body learning to adapt to being still, just as muscular aches are a natural result of weights training in a gym. Indeed, the disturbances we experience during meditation are an integral part of the training process.
One would think stillness would be easy. After all, we only have to stop. It’s simple – our dog and cat do it all the time, and they take great pleasure in doing it.
But for us, stillness is very hard to do. To the average modern human being, even the idea of being still can seem utterly foreign – even threatening – we’re so acclimatized to action and reaction, restlessness, excitement and distraction – but not stillness. Stillness has never been a part of how we’ve been taught to live – nor is it spoken about, or given any value or encouraged. And even if we do get the opportunity to be still – in a doctors waiting room or waiting for a bus, or sitting in our lounge-room, we often don’t know how to react to it. So we reach for our mobile phone, or a magazine or stare at a television. Hence the irony that even when we have the opportunity to be still, we can’t do it – it creates feelings of irritation, boredom, restlessness and so on.
Unlike every other creature on the planet, who use stillness to rejuvenate themselves throughout the day, we have lost the ability to be still. Which is why we have to learn how to do it by using meditation.
There is an immense amount of scientific and anecdotal evidence for how essential regular periods of stillness are for our mental and physical health.
When we are still our mind naturally re-organizes itself, re-patterning recent information and storing unneeded information into the unconscious – as well as processing any emotional reactions it has recently experienced. As we rest, or meditate, this cleansing activity appears as errant thoughts, memories or worries that arise and pass away, as well as temporary feelings and patterns of sensations – aches, twinges and pains in the body As we meditate all this activity appears naturally. And if we allow it to happen, the anxieties and emotions that cause it pass away as quickly as they arise, and our organs have the time to rejuvenate and process the backlog of hormones and any leftover toxins on the blood.
This cleansing process only happens when stillness is present in one form or another – whether meditating or resting or taking a nap. Then, when we open our eyes and step back into our life, and our mind and body become focused on external concerns, this healing process becomes secondary to its primary purpose of serving our needs and desires.
The problem with stillness is, people think it should feel pleasurable – blissful, peaceful, calm and so on. And maybe once you’ve trained yourself with meditation this kind of tranquility will occasionally occur.
But in the beginning stages of meditation, stillness is filled with all the things that arise into it – because all the things you think are disturbing you in meditation – the boredom, aches, itches, passing memories, worries and squalls of errant thinking – these things arise into the space that stillness creates. They are mind and body naturally seeking to throw off the garbage and dross it’s collected from its life – to find balance.
And they need the space that stillness creates to do it.
And this process of ‘throwing off tension’ is sometimes fast, and sometimes slow, depending on how complex the problem is – but if you just keep using the methods, like a boat crossing a river you will eventually get to the other side. And any mental or physical glitch you were struggling with, once processed, will be gone, and you will be free of just a little more of the weight you have been carrying.
So learn to accept the suffering that arises when you meditate. It’s the only way you’ll be free of it.
Use the meditation methods to accept and let go of everything as it passes through, because it is a part of the healing and rejuvenation that is itself the path to stillness. The more you practice acceptance of the struggle, and use the meditation methods to remain detached from any suffering that might occur, the less intense the suffering will become. You realize then, that all the things in your life you thought were problems – of worry, circular thinking, anxiety and physical discomfort – are not problems at all. They’re simply a mind and body seeking balance.
Love your pain and it becomes your friend.
‘BEING STILL – MEDITATION THAT MAKES SENSE’, Roger’s new book, is available now.
‘BEING STILL’ is available on Amazon as a paperback ……………. AUD $26.40 (incl. GST)
‘BEING STILL’ is also available as a Kindle ebook ………………………………………..AUD $11.99
‘BEING STILL’ the audiobook (including all exercises) ………………………………. AUD $25.00
(The audiobook includes all the exercises, as well as ebooks of Being Still, to fit any device.)