Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mindfulness Journal: The Rubber Meets the Road

Mindfulness is so very easy to write about. It's just as easy to talk about. But it's when the mindful rubber meets the road that the going gets tough.

I've been reading Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn and working on cultivating a mindfulness practice in my daily life. Sitting meditation has always been a struggle for me, and it's been something that I have particularly avoided over the last twenty years or so. Reading Kabat-Zinn's book and looking over the website of his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, he makes it very clear that a commitment to forty-five minutes per day of sitting meditation is a reasonable amount of time to devote to such practice.

Forty-five minutes?

I am still struggling with meditating for five-minute increments, and I am amazed at the veritable riot going on in my mind. When I try to simply watch my breath go in and out as Kabat-Zinn recommends, it's inevitable that not five breath cycles go by before my mind has latched onto something that sends me into a tailspin of thought. Be it the fragment of a song in my mind, a random thought, remembering something something for my to-do list, or simply sudden awareness of physical discomfort (of which I have a great deal this week as I recover from the flu), the distractions of both body and mind are endless and rarely entertaining.

When sitting quietly, five minutes can seem like an eternity, and I can't count how many times even a brief five-minute meditation has yielded a twenty-minute nap. Now that's mindlessness in action.

Of course, every meditation teacher worth his or her salt will tell you that attachment to outcome will inevitably bring one stress, and meditation is more about non-attachment than anything. They will also remind the seeker that the absence of thought is not the goal. Rather, the absence of attachment to the thoughts as they go by is what one strives for. After all, it's hooking into the random thoughts that brings one out of the present moment. And the present moment is the only place one wants to be when meditating.

Perhaps I will completely let go of the word "meditating". Perhaps I will just say "sitting", like they do at many Buddhist retreats. That way, if one simply sits, then how can one fail? And if failure isn't even possible, then why become anxious because one's mind is simply crawling with random thoughts over which one apparently has little or no control? I think my mind is becoming attached to the notion that it must be clear and uncluttered during sitting, and my sitting is still riddled with distraction, much to my ego's chagrin and dismay.

Well, I'll keep sitting and breathing and then do it some more. And perhaps one day, I'll actually have one brief moment of clarity. Til then, I'll continue to detach from the attachment to non-attachment.
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