Meditation Challenge: Day 8 of 28

Once a day and twice on Sundays. Yesterday I sat for 20 minutes in the morning and then 20 minutes after I got home from a visit with Mom. It was the first time I’ve done a meditation at night in this go-round. Very interesting to see the differences in the state of the mind between morning and evening. Took me longer to settle down — actually longer to sit. Part of the evening meditation was also about re-settling after a day that involved lots of driving. Re-settling myself into my home and re-sanctifying it.

This morning I began Week Two of the program, which focuses on the body. Specifically, the teaching suggests that I focus on areas of discomfort or pain within my body. Relating how I approach discomfort, pain, not getting what I what, to how I relate to my own body’s pain. It’s a very powerful association but definitely a more challenging kind of meditation. Luckily, the teaching — and my own mind and experience — remind me to continue to be gentle and open. I move back and forth between focusing on my breath and returning to the area of discomfort. First the general area, then gradually honing in on the spot that has the most intensity of pain. Or sensation. This kind of meditation can be exhausting. So I begin, again and again. Return to the breath. Return to the sensation. The teaching even suggests focusing on pleasurable sensations as well — but warns that it is easier to get lost in pleasurable sensations.

I do not think that attempting this challenge by myself would be a good idea if I did not already have some experience practicing meditation with others. It is so easy to become overwhelmed and lost in the mind. But also wonderfully rewarding to peel away the layers and find, finally, the Centered Self. The End of Desire. The bottom of the tackle box.

(Re)Commit to Sit

Right around the equinox I started the Tricycle 28-day meditation challenge. Other friends of mine might do weight-loss challenges, but this is definitely more my speed. So to speak.

As the word “challenge” might imply, the course set out by the hard-core Buddhists over at Tricycle magazine was a little too rigorous for me. But I figured it was a good opportunity to deepen my on-again off-again sort-of daily practice of mindful movement and seated meditation into something a little, um, deeper. I may not be able to commit to 20 minutes a day of sitting still for the rest of my life, but at least I could commit to 28 days.

Tricycle’s staff wanted me to sit for TWO 20-minute periods, morning and evening, and then dedicate two hours over the weekend to more sitting. Maybe that makes sense for a farmer or a delivery person, but I ALREADY spend far too much time with my butt planted in a chair. 20 minutes of doing it mindfully sounded possible, though, especially since seated meditation always inspires me to a more frequent yoga and/or tai chi practice too.

The first few days went pretty well. Then, on day 3, I started feeling like crap. Some passing physical symptoms kicked up the chronic illness and before I knew it a week had passed.

I got back to it last night. I was pretty emotionally raw and noticed that the practiced helped calm me — but not just because of the practice itself but because of all the little bits and pieces I’ve learned about mindfulness practice over the years. This morning I sat again, and for the first time I saw the sitting as a gift I was giving myself rather than something I was taking away from more meaningful pursuits.

There is a difference, after all, between focusing all of my consciousness into the screen whilst typing madly with my fingers and hunching my shoulders… and sitting quietly listening to my body.

In terms of how to count the days, I decided to consider myself pretty much at the same place I left off last week. The 28 days are divided into four weeks of practice, with a focus that shifts from breath to body to mind to etc — I’m trying not to peek ahead. So I’m still on the breath week.

We’ll see whether I want to give myself the gift of 20 minutes of seated meditation tonight, or some other gift instead. Like a hot bath. Or another form of relaxation.

For right now, at least, I’m glad to be back on the beam.