Hello my fellow human Beings:
Do you find it difficult to still your mind when you meditate?
Do you get easily distracted by thoughts, sounds, sensations, emotions?
Do these challenges make you frustrated with your practice causing you to want to give up?
WAIT!!! Don’t give up yet.
Learning to concentrate on our object of mindfulness (our breath) is a key component to attuning ourselves to being grounded in the present moment, aware of what is really going on, and creating a more balanced, peaceful life.
Martine Batchelor, a former Zen Buddhist nun, author and meditation teacher, in her book, Meditation for Life, writes:
“Concentration is essential in Buddhist meditation and helps to calm the mind, although it must be emphasized that its function is not to stop the thought process. The aim of meditation is not to make your mind blank or empty, but to make it more supple and peaceful. Concentrating on something such as the breath does not narrow or tense the attention. On the contrary, you steadily but gently rest your attention on your breathing, as you attune yourself to the breath and try to become one with it.”
We are trying to train our awareness muscle through our meditation practice, strengthening our minds to focus, be alert and aware, and to be equanimous.
This means that sometimes when we sit (or stand or walk) to meditate we will find our minds are a buzz of activity and they get easily distracted. Nevertheless, we keep returning our focus gently back to our breath. Over and over again, we concentrate our attention and awareness on our breath. Remembering each time we get distracted to notice what has distracted us and to just let them go – letting them flow out as easily as they entered – and then tenderly returning our focus to our breath.
Our goal is to become more alert and aware without blind reactions so that we can live more peaceful, balanced and abundant lives.
So in addition to concentration we want to observe and examine what is going on in us and around us without judgement. This is where enquiry comes in. We use it to be mindful of what arises within us (thoughts, perceptions, and emotions) without any criticism or verdict-rendering so that we can gain a clearer insight into what is happening in our lives.
Martine Batchelor, in her book, Meditation for Life, explains enquiry as follows:
“Enquiry involved looking deeply into your own experience, perceptions and thoughts, and recognizing and questioning them. … Enquiry gives true insight into what is happening. It will make you examine how you are feeling, thinking and behaving, and lead you to question the causes and effects of your actions. …Where concentration settles you down and diminishes tension, enquiry brings a dash of zest to life.”
So this week, as you live your life, renew your commitment to your meditation practice. Find time to be still, to meditate, to connect and be aware.
Concentrate, be aware, examine and repeat as often as is necessary to help you have a peaceful and alert mind and to live a zestful and abundant life!