Meditation can be a challenging practice to develop. After all, we all have busy schedules and daily habits that have shaped our daily lives for years. Scientific studies show there are many reasons to stick with it.
A sustained meditation practice will:
- Increase your ability to focus and will improve your attention.
- Improve your working memory.
- Improve general social and emotional functioning.
- Help you manage your emotions.
- Help you experience less anxiety.
- Improve your physical health.
- Help you manage eating disorders, substance abuse, psoriasis and depression.
- Help you manage and decrease your sensitivity to pain.
But can knowing these benefits actually be a distraction to your practice?
One of the keys to developing a meditation practice is not to attach to expectations. Or to preconceptions of what meditation “does.” Research does show many benefits to meditating, but the effects of your practice will surprise you. They will emerge in unexpected ways.
Attachment is another form of entanglement. The meditator’s mind witnesses thoughts, emotions, sensations without becoming entangled with them, without attaching to any one of them. So, likewise, with the benefits of a practice, it is best to not become entangled. Simply allow and observe. Witness and accept.
Maybe your mind strays from your breath during a meditation sitting. Or maybe you stray from your sitting practice, missing a few days of meditation as you become distracted by your “daily life.” Remain kind to yourself. Gently bring yourself back to the focus of awareness. Gently bring yourself back to sitting, even if for a few minutes each day.
Your practice is a seedling that will develop with care and attention. Trust that, along with the joyful pleasure of feeling present, you will soon begin to experience the many other life-affirming benefits of meditation.
With practice, your seedling will grow into a majestic, firmly rooted tree. But can we plan out exactly how this tree will unfold? How many branches it will have? Whether it will grow straight or lean to one side?
As Zen Master Dogen put it,
When you paint spring, do not paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots – just paint spring. To paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots is to paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots. It is not yet painting spring.”
In other words, spring is so much more than just the fruits of spring, just as meditation is so much more than the fruits of meditation.
Look around you now.
Close your eyes.
Feel your breathe entering your body.
Hold it for just a second or so, until it is ready to exhale itself.
Repeat 3 times.
Look around again.
Peace and Love.