Buddhists meditate, everyone knows that. People will say, ‘I couldn’t be a Buddhist, I can’t keep quiet’, or ‘I couldn’t find time to meditate’. But ‘You don’t have to sit on the floor’ and you don’t have to be silent for long periods, or at all – some Buddhists chant, noisily, instead.
Quakers are observed to keep quiet too, and to sit still, but you don’t have to be good at those things in order to be a Quaker.
On the other hand, meditation can be a helpful tool, and sitting quietly to practise can be helpful too. It may be that everything goes better when I find time for meditation practise. But it may be that when things are going better, I find time to meditate. Or both.
So why don’t I do it more often? That is my question, but I hear the same, or similar, from other people. So maybe it would help to share some of our answers and the ways we’ve found to help overcome them.
So why don’t I practise meditation more often? Lots of reasons/ excuses:
I procrastinate, although sometimes meditating is procrastinating …
I’m contrasuggestible, so much so that sometimes I rebel against what I’m told to do, even when I’m telling myself!
Things happen that interrupt me, the phone rings, someone comes to the door.
I feel I can’t sit still, or that I’ll be too aware of my aches and pains. Breathing mindfully is a lot harder with a cold when each breath hurts.
I decide something else is more important, which may or may not be true.
Changes in locations/routines that remove the ‘opportunities’ I’ve previously identified. For instance, when my walking becomes very difficult (as it sometimes does with my MS) suddenly the opportunity to step out of the house and walk mindfully to work has gone.
And what helps me to practise meditation more often?
Knowing that other people are practising too.
Going to sangha meetings (at least occasionally) and practising with others.
Having time on my own, so that I don’t have to explain to anyone that I’m meditating (although all my family are quite understanding and respectful, and sometimes even join in).
Not allowing myself to meditate for too long (stopping while I’m still enjoying it).
Something to provide an indication of the passage of time so that I don’t clock-watch. A joss-stick burning is one way, another is to start when the clock will strike in about 15 minutes. I know to stop when the clock strikes. Or I might even use the timer on the cooker …
Remembering that I don’t have to sit on the floor, that doing what I’m doing mindfully is as good as, possibly better than, just sitting. Simpler tasks seem to be best – walking, preparing vegetables, sweeping, weeding. Someone once said to me ‘Woodbrooke is full of opportunities to practice – stairs everywhere.’ I realised that my (then) workplace was similarly endowed. I’ve since moved to a different office,where the full disabled access has many advantages, but the frequent opportunities to climb the stairs mindfully have gone, replaced by an opportunity to walk down the corridor mindfully.
Keeping it simple. I don’t have a special place, though sitting on my cushion on the floor helps, and sometimes I improvise a ‘shrine’ by putting eg a Buddha statue and/or a flower and/or a joss stick on a small table.
What helps you?