Saturday, November 5, 2011

Anything But This Moment . . .

Sitting, it usually does not take long before the unpleasantness makes itself felt. Drinking from the bitter cup of suffering is an exercise in patience, and faith. One that I am not always able to see through the end. Lately, it has been hard staying seated for the whole thirty minutes.

Walking, I thought I would be brave and go 'naked' without my phone. This is the perfect opportunity to turn exercise into a walking meditation, I tell myself. Soon, I discover the pain there also. The same one I was feeling during sitting. To stay with each step and the burden of fully felt discomfort, or to find ways to escape? The mind ends up playing its usual tricks and takes me somewhere else.

At the gym, I went without a book. Yes, I shall turn the time on the elliptical machine into yet another form of practice. It's been a while since I have exercised my heart so hard. Body, breath, and mind start to rebel against so much effort. I start wishing I had not left the book at home. Anything but this moment . . . Then remembering 'breath as an anchor', I decide to investigate the new sensation of breath under stress. Mouth open, throat dry, air burning through the lungs. For a while, I forget that I don't want to do this.

Throughout each day, I make many such overtures to mindfulness, and I almost always find it incredibly challenging to stay with the unpleasantness. This is why sustained practice is so hard.

How do you manage to stay mindful?

13 comments:

  1. I try and welcome the suffering with open arms and focus mindfully on it, and breathe. I remind myself that I can't get rid of it because that is getting rid of myself. I embrace the discomfort.

    Easier said than done - but practice is the operative word!

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  2. Thank you Ben. I love that: "I remind myself that I can't get rid of it because that is getting rid of myself."

    Also, remembering that embracing the suffering is the key to long term happiness. A bit like needing to go over the small bumps that are along the way.

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  3. There are so many "distractions" which tickle my monkey mind. Some are discretionary (scenario worrying, gadgets etc) and others are imposed (leaf blower noises etc).

    I try to recognize them and then bounce back to mindfulness. If I don't recognize them, they will carry me away to some degree of discontentment. But sometimes it's uncomfortable to be with myself in mindfulness, and so the distractions become an easy excuse.

    I also use an elliptical for working out at the gym and have found that lightly closing my eyes, focusing on my breath, and having calming music (such as Newang Kechog) helps me stay mindful despite the heat, sweat, noise and smells of the gym.

    Matt

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  4. i´m learning to know and accept my bounds concerning formal and informal mindfulness practice. times and days without practice. the use of uselessness. the meaning of tolerance. and kindness toward myself. recntently i´ve read that learning, growth happens at bounds, not by overstepping these bounds and not by not going so far, but exactly there. found this pointing to truth. i allow myself to be not mindful otherwise i would be overstepping my bounds.

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  5. Matt, it's interesting that you mention using calming music during your mindful workouts. My question to you is this: do you think your practice would gain in depth if you did not use the music, and instead were with your surroundings as they are, with heat, sweat, noise and smells . . . ?

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  6. Anonymous, I love this: "I allow myself to not be mindful". That's an interesting thought. I agree with you that one does not want to beat oneself up for 'not being a good meditator' :) There should be a certain ease to this whole business of practice. Meanwhile maintaining right effort . . . It is quite a balancing act!

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  7. I practice is with no music, though I sometimes use the iPhone app I made for mediation. When practice is difficult to sustain me, it is when I am not being kind with myself, it may extend beyond monkey mind, not eating healthily, excessive worrying, being judgmental. I know judgement is here, criticizing, watching, waiting for a failure to illustrate fraudulent intention. The key when in those tortuous moments, is, as always: compassion. I must continue to try to have compassion for myself. Yes, still practice, but compassion for all that has made this moment as it is. Not every moment is blissful, not every breath is easy.

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  8. It would certainly be more challenging to deal with the random noises than with my music. But this challenge might make for better mindfulness "strengthening" through constant refocusing.

    I'll give it a try tomorrow.

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  9. I always try to practice it with no music , i rarely dis-identify myself from the suffering,but that dis-identification is the best feeling i ever had in my life, like all the pain is flying in the air and i have nothing to do with it. But very quickly i will return to it. So now i am trying to practice what Ben mentioned.

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  10. Matt, yes, that's what I was getting at. Being present for whatever is. A more challenging practice for sure! But then, the point is not to bliss our anyway . . .

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  11. Thank you nani. Yes, experiencing the pain without the added layer of 'I like', or 'I don't like'. Such a small space between the raw experience and that extra layer of thinking. Amazing how quickly the mind latches on. Last night, walking in the cold, it hit me. The richness of body being cold. So much bigger than "I am cold, let me get home fast. I really don't like this." No, instead, the curiosity to dismantle the cold experience.

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  12. Leaving the book behind on the elliptical walker--isn't that a bit extreme? My own addition during exercise is even worse: the op-ed pages of the New York Times. A sure way to induce further suffering...

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  13. It is not so much about not bringing the book, as not distracting myself from turning towards the suffering. Not trying to alleviate the feeling of boredom that is often a cover up for aversion. By allowing myself to be bored on the elliptical, I get a chance to be with what is, and not escape into a story, a piece of news.

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