… I made a resolution to meditate every day and I do it most days, but I'm finding that resolution hard to keep. Is it always as hard as this to actually sit down and do it? Is that everyone’s experience? Does it get easier as time goes on? A friend of mine tells me she feels joy when she meditates, but I never do. I have to debate with myself before giving in and sitting down to it. I make all kinds of excuses, and I'm always think of things I have to do first. Give us a bit of encouragement here. Sean
You are making it much harder for yourself by being unclear and undecided about it. That debate with yourself is much more burdensome than meditation itself. It weighs you down, while meditation is weightless – it is nothing. So your problem is not meditation itself but your own hesitation and ambiguity. It is worth your while to look at these, because they shape everything in your life.
“On the one hand,” said the man being interviewed, responding to a sensitive question…. Then, a few minutes later, “On the other hand….” And after several more minutes of wiggling, he said again: “On the other hand….” But the interviewer was alert, and said, “How many hands do you have?” And then, brilliantly, “If you had only one hand what would you say?”
We like to keep our options open. That appears safer than commitment, but as you know from experience, it gets you nowhere in the end: nothing is completed, there is no meeting the moment, no joy. Just don’t engage with your hesitation, don’t enter that debate.
Meditation means facing your experience directly, holding nothing back. If your experience is hesitation and reluctance don’t call that a problem; look at it as calmly as if you were looking at a tree, watching the way the leaves move in the wind. You are fluttering just as they are, but they don’t make a problem of it. All that fluttering doesn't stop the tree from being a potent symbol of meditation.
Not only at the beginning but throughout your session, the moment you detect the slightest movement of withdrawal, square up to your experience once again; make yourself fully present – not defiantly, but simply and humbly, hiding nothing. Learn to live at peace with your poverty. You are the tax-collector at the back of the Temple, while the Pharisee is up at the front, doing a sales pitch to God, praising his own product and making little of everyone else’s. At the back is the best place to be: you are not trying to be everywhere, like that three-handed interviewee – everywhere and nowhere. You are on the safest ground: humility. Only there and then is real joy possible.
Psalm 21 has the phrase, ‘rejoicing with the joy of your presence.” Joy is there when you put yourself fully into something. Young children, when they laugh, are all laughter, and when they weep they are all sadness. But later we learn to drag ourselves along: half-way into things and no more. Half in and half out. If you walked like that you would look a hundred years old. Go fully into everything you do and say and think: die into everything. Then you will know about joy and fulfilment.