Waking up early this morning was not easy. A warm bed and fuzzy blanket had me at hello. Instead of staying, however, I got up knowing that I needed to make time for my morning meditation (which is still hard for me to do).
I do a few things before coming into my office to sit on the sofa and listen to Tara Brach. I chose a podcast 39 minutes in length and recorded during her retreat in January 2020. My mind was wanting to rush and get this over with so when I read that there was going to be “an overview of the primary components in meditation” my hand reached down to start skipping through that part.
A Little Voice Inside My Head
The voice in my head stopped my fingers from reaching the skip button and nudged me toward listening to the overview because there is always something to be learned. Half reluctantly, I started at the beginning.
Liberation from a forced, unnatural and somewhat meditation practice is what happened next. I learned something brand new: that scanning the body and focusing on breath was to teach concentration! Read the below excerpt from the overview below to see what I mean.
In a deep and big way, the goal or purpose of practice is an undoing of the conditioning that keeps us from from pure being. From being that awareness, that loving awareness that is our nature. So we’re undoing conditioning and the approaches to that undoing.
The main cluster of skills that we teach at these retreats are in three main clusters: one of them is concentration, which is where we choose a place to bring our attention over and over again so that we can develop a more sustained attention. A steadier attention. Let’s say that by concentration on the breath, the mind goes quiet and there comes some space between the thoughts so we can actually be present.
So concentration gathers and collects and quiets the mind. But it’s not the goal of the practice. The goal of the practice is NOT to be with the breath. That is a quieting, a de-conditioning of the kind of busy distractedness that allows us to actually connect with reality. That’s the goal. Being the reality.
So we begin with concentration because all of us in this society and beyond are living in very distracted minds and we gather and collect. Then mindfulness is purposely noticing what’s here. We notice what’s here and we notice the sensations, feelings, thoughts and even the subtle domains of how things are changing.
So there’s concentration to quiet and mindfulness to actually notice what’s here.Tara Brach: Introductory Meditation Instructions – Guided Practice from the Retreat. January 2, 2020.
In all the years I have worked to meditate, I never knew this! I thought I was supposed to focus and be with the breath and in doing so I would feel what others talk about- bliss and a connection. Instead, I often practiced in a stressful way because I was working so hard to follow the breath. I made up visual tricks in my mind that I thought could help. They didn’t. I just could not stay focused on my flipping breath!
What a Difference
Because of Tara’s overview (the one I was going to skip through) I practiced my meditation in a different light and didn’t have to try to meditate “correctly.” Instead, I sat there and truly felt my body scan going deep to where the tingling in my extremities was like a ball of energy.
At one point, my body got very warm and I began to sweat and get nauseous. No more than a minute later, Tara spoke about how deep feelings and physical changes can come up when meditating. I wasn’t getting sick after all – I was just doing what can occur naturally.
So Why Am I Sharing This?
I’m sharing this experience to give credence to meditation but more importantly to learn to listen and act on that little voice/gut/intuition/wisdom that we all have. Had I let my plan go forward, I would not have had an experience where I learned something so critical to a practice that was more frustrating than it was calming. I know we all make decisions from a controlled viewpoint, but sometimes, opening up to that nudge of letting go can lead us to where we are supposed to be going – not where we plan to.