When I first attempted meditation a few years ago, I often became frustrated with my inability to focus. I thought that meditation was about emptying my mind of all thoughts, and therefore forcing myself to become calm.
I had high expectations for my meditation practice, which often led to disappointment. After a few tries, I would feel like I was failing, resulting in me giving up on my practice. I would try again a few months later, and the cycle would continue.
After a few of these cycles, I learned that my idea of meditation was misguided. I was projecting my perfectionism onto my practice–which is what most westerners tend to do–and this was the root of my frustration. I wanted so badly to meditate “correctly”. But there is no right way to meditate.
In fact, most meditation teachers will emphasise non-judgement as a key component of meditation. Instead of emptying the mind, we must sit with ourselves as we are, choosing to enter the space in whatever form our mind takes in that moment.
If I start my meditation in a space of uneasiness, then I learn to sit with my uneasiness. It doesn’t mean that I have failed. It means that I am learning to accept myself as I am. So in this space of uneasiness, I observe myself and I can say, “wow, my mind is really unsettled today”, without any judgement on my part. In this way I am not identified with my mind. What I have now given myself is the gift of space.
The more I can do this, the more space I allow into my life.
If I enter my meditation feeling angry, instead of trying to “think positive”, or calm myself down, I sit with my anger–or I sit with my pain, or my happiness, or any human emotion I am feeling.
I sit and observe. And I wait. And I allow space. And I do it all over again the next day, and the next. This allows me to see the transience of the human experience.
No emotion or condition has power over my life.
And this is what I learn when I sit with myself, as I am.