I’m the first to admit that balancing work, looking after a baby, and the daily stuff of “life” leaves very little time to just sit. I’ll confess that at the end of the day, I’ve got a healthy dose of “Meh and Blah” and usually just want to crawl into bed.
As a former Tibetan Buddhist Monk of 19 years, Tamkey used to have hours each day dedicated to meditation. Now, as a layperson, he also struggles to find the time.
It’s the great universal joke really, we have to make time to “get time”….but how?
In our classes, we’re often asked what advice there is for starting up a daily practice, so here goes! This is our take on the top 3 things to remember when you start meditating:
Generally speaking, in the West, being “present” isn’t something we’re encouraged to do. In fact, being present is actually in contradiction of the goal setting, planning and achieving that layers our thinking and education from a young age.
Living in the moment is often countered with “Well don’t you have a plan for the future?”.
Here’s the thing, being present all the time is almost impossible. It asks a level of commitment to practice that is rarely found and requires a steady hand at relinquishing “things”, be they ideas, notions or preconceptions.
But dedicating a few minutes a day of “being completely here” is possible, and in a way, it’s just like exercising a muscle.
The more pause we take, the more joy we find in the minutiae. The more joy we find, the more time we make. We’re habitual creatures by nature, so creating a habit of “being” can really start with only a few minutes a day.
Tamkey says “We come here alone and leave alone. Being present sounds very easy, but even when meditating, you catch yourself again and again thinking of other things, being somewhere else. We never face ourselves, we look out to all the things in the world to make us happy, but we must make ourselves happy, we must face ourselves to do it. This is meditation”
HOW: In the morning before you do anything else, just take a few breaths in and out. Take 30 seconds to a minute to listen to the sound of your breathing, paying attention to the sensation of the breath.
Calm the mind
Tamkey mused that “maybe we are always so busy that even our thoughts are tired”, and that making the effort to sit quietly and focus inward is a way of aligning what you hope for with what is. It’s not that easy to just turn everything off though. In fact, the very act of sitting quietly can sometimes amplify the hum to a deafening roar.
So how do we allow things to just “quieten down?” Tamkey mentioned that this is the wrong way to view it, we can’t sit down just to relax and be calm, we must take the time to look at ourselves, our actions, our thoughts and just be with them, with no judgement.
The problem is that we cling to both the good and the bad. When bad situations arise, our emotions latch onto them and bring them into our being. We follow the thoughts until they consume us. Interestingly though, we do the same with positive thoughts and usually, we see this as a good thing. Striving for a state of “happiness” and “bliss” seems to be an underlying notion as to why we pursue meditation, but the real aim is to bring all emotions into a state of balance and equanimity.
The more we analyse ourselves and our relationships to the things that bring us suffering or conversely, immense joy, the more we realise that these feelings and thoughts are just like waves on an ocean, they rise only to join the expanse again.
To calm the mind is to recognise these feelings and allow yourself a space each day to watch and understand.
HOW: Next time you sit down to meditate, take a moment to reflect on the feelings of the day, try to think of how many emotions you felt throughout the day, from happiness, confusion, frustration, joy, awe. Try to remember how each feeling came to be. What triggered it? Then, try to remember what changed it. Once you feel like you’ve investigated the cause and effect of each emotion, visualise each emotion rising up from your stomach and then releasing out through your nose and mouth, until you are left with a feeling of calm.
There is no finish line
Many times we’re asked “when will I know if I’m doing it right?”
There are days when everything is aligned and there will be glimpses of your true nature and there are days when it’s fog, and hard to keep your thoughts and emotions in check. The trick is to recognise that there is no finish line, this is your life journey…and there is no “right or wrong”, there is only “do”…
Not entirely helpful, but the truth is that meditation isn’t a linear thing. Getting to know yourself isn’t either.
The simple act of dedicating time each day to practice is the first step, and one that shouldn’t be underestimated.
The real “Milestones” are when you are enthusiastic and committed to practice in a joyful way, when each situation in life is seen as an opportunity to meditate.
“When experienced you can practice even when distracted”- Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche “Progress” is reflected in moments when you truly feel happy in your own skin, and can see kindness and possibility in yourself and others, when balance becomes the norm and judgements are replaced with an expansive and accepting view point.
HOW: Make a commitment today to find time to practice. It can be as simple as bringing your attention to the present when you are driving or catching transport to work, or being mindful of the physical sensations of drinking a cup of tea in the morning. Start with 2 minutes and then gradually build each week by what feels comfortable. Tell someone that this is your new goal and ask for support like a reminder, and remember don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day! Just try again.
We wish you a wonderful journey!