I made it through the meditation weekend! Nothing terrible happened (actually, absolutely nothing happened), but I did learn that I’m clearly not as advanced in my sitting practice as others. My roommate came home saying she felt fantastic with more mental clarity and more physical energy... really?!! I think I felt the exact opposite.
A few lessons learned:
- I hold a lot of tension in my jaw. Every time I checked in on it, it was clenched! Smiling gently helped release it temporarily. (Sitting meditation may look relaxing from the outside, but it was definitely causing me stress... wonder what my cortisol level was.)
- Practicing asana before sitting definitely helps. I practiced in the early morning on day #2 and found sitting much easier and more comfortable than day #1.
- My mind cannot relax if my body is not comfortable. If my foot is asleep or if I have an itch that wont go away, that is the only thing I can think about... so I would do whatever it took to be comfortable.
Why I will do it again (but in shorter intervals... probably not for entire days at a time!):
- Time and space with no distractions. It’s a rare thing these days to have time alone with only our mind. No other distractions whatsoever… no phone, no emails, and no responsibilities.
- Reminder of impermanence. Sitting and watching our thoughts and emotions, we begin to see how impermanent they are. Fleeting desires. Fleeting anger. Annoyances that come and go. The temporary nature of pain and suffering.
- Reveals mental habits. We can observe and learn the habits of our mind: thoughts that repeat themselves, memories that re-play, worries or anxieties that surface, future events that we plan and envision. Once they are identified, they can be better controlled.
- Practice practice practice. As our meditation teacher told us, this sitting practice is just like first learning the Sun Salutations in asana practice: first we emulate where we sit there and “pretend” to be meditating, and then with practice we eventually begin to discover it for ourselves (and sitting meditation eventually becomes enjoyable).
- It's about the process. My struggles with this are all part of the process. Discomfort, frustration, anger... it's all part of it. Just like when we're working on a new challenging posture, it's about the process, and not, as Richard would say, "the hallucination of a goal."