Success with meditation

Meditation* is hard. It is difficult to confront the dreadful thoughts swimming around in our head. I have built a regular meditation practice only after several false starts. Based on my experience, here are my two cents.

The way we think about meditation can end up making it a lot harder. The world has trained us to think of success as parts of a perfect whole – such as scoring 95 out of 100 on a test, or 9 on 10 in a performance appraisal. Applying the same yardstick though would defeat the very purpose of mindfulness meditation. There is no test.

In that case, how do we practice meditation? How do we get better at it?

Success with meditation is every bit of attention we pay to our state of mind. It is about returning to a state of presence and attention. As we notice ourselves drifting away into the illusory world of thought and emotion, the practice is to notice whatever we feel in that moment. Success is not about concentrating or being free of thought, but the interruption of conditioned response.

With sufficient practice, I have observed myself doing this often in a variety of situations – when I stop listening to somebody who is speaking to me, when I am unable to focus on a book, or when the crises in my head multiply, fueled by my anxious thoughts. 

Chade-Meng Tan likens the state of mind to a flag. While it continues to flutter, a good meditation practice ensures that it stays anchored to a post.

Inspiration – Jack Kornfield’s podcast featuring Chade-Meng Tan

*I refer to mindfulness meditation in this post

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