Tuesday, February 28, 2012

There’s a lot going on when we’re doing nothing

I have a bumper sticker that says "Nothing Happens." It's a sort of in-joke among meditators.

If you were to look into the small studio at Samadhi on Wednesday evenings, you might think that nothing is happening. The people there are sitting, mostly still, although they sometimes shift position quietly.

But to say that nothing is happening is like saying that nothing is going on in a pond based on the observation that the surface is still. Underneath that stillness, fish are swimming, currents are moving, plants are growing, leaves are rotting. Water arrives and evaporates. When you look at it, there's a lot there.

Similarly, while we appear to be sitting still in meditation, and we are trying to keep our attention on our breath, there's a lot happening. My nose itches or my foot falls asleep. Thoughts rise up as relentlessly as the bubbles in soda or champagne. People talk outside. Cars speed by.

My mind wanders -- and when I notice that, I bring my attention back, gently. Over and over. What do I have to do before bed? Well, I should call” ... oh, thinking. And come back to the breath.

Having thoughts isn't a problem. Meditation practice is about training to notice when we're distracted and then bringing our attention back to the space where we’re not. It develops stability and calmness.

By doing that in formal meditation, we become more able to do it in life. Instead of reacting without thinking, we may notice a thought forming and choose how to react. Or question it -- is it really true that I'm not good at this? Instead of being pulled around by our thoughts, we find some space around them and can follow them -- or not.

This doesn't happen the first time you sit and meditate -- or maybe, for you, it does. You may not think anything's happening. And then one day, when you're outside gardening and you're starting to complain to yourself, you catch the thought, decide to let it go, and find yourself outside on a beautiful day, just breathing.

The meditation groups meets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays. No meditation experience is required. We ease into practice, which can include concentration, contemplation, or guided instruction, and we practice for 20-30 minutes. And then we discuss our experience or a teaching.

For more visit friendyourmind.blogspot.com or come on Wendesday.

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