A few weeks, maybe a month. Okay – it’s been over four years. That’s alright. Getting back into it is really easy.
You just do it.
It’s that easy. Stop overthinking it.
There you go, you daft sausage, now do it again tomorrow.
You were shielded from most of these certainties when you were young but if you ignore them when you’re an adult you’ll create problems for yourself.
Popular methods for avoiding awkward truths include: working too hard, taking drugs, over exercising, procrastinating, pornography, self-loathing and checking your phone every two minutes.
Meditation removes some distractions so you are gently forced to see how things really are. This can be daunting but sometimes your coping methods cause more problems than facing the truths themselves. Late night drinking to avoid the fact that you chose the wrong career might be causing you more difficulties than actually changing your job.
Of course in many ways drinking will seem like a much more fun option than acknowledging that you’ve wasted time in a job you don’t like.
But before you throw your meditation cushion in the skip…
Remember you can only deal with something if you acknowledge it exists in the first place.
When you accept How Things Actually Are it will be much easier to find a happier way to solve your problems. In the same way you don’t become furious at gravity when you fall off a ladder, accepting that life is a bit shit sometimes, helps you come up with better solutions.
You can also take comfort in the fact that everyone you know, and will ever know, also has to deal with the same crap. It might even bring you closer together.
Meditation can feel a little brutal sometimes but life is tricky enough without deceiving yourself.
Too often mediation is seen as a way of escaping from stress or getting to a ‘new you’ who is all calm, never makes a complete arse of things or catches their dressing gown sleeve on the door handle. But it’s not about that at all.
Meditation means taking a close, non-judgemental look at what it feels like to be you and alive in this moment, right now.
Next time you meditate, ask yourself how you are – and wait. Just notice how you feel in that moment. Don’t get caught up in describing it to yourself, you’re not going for a “I’m pissed off and my arse is going numb” conversation with yourself.
Rather, notice what being pissed off really feels like. Where do you feel it? Are your shoulders tight? Jaw clenched? How are you breathing? The aim isn’t to stop any of that, it’s just to be aware of it. You might find yourself relaxing a little but its actually not the point. If you’re tense, happy, calm or completely bloody furious that’s all ok. You want to have the full direct experience of being you.
If you can notice your experience precisely and pay careful attention to it, you’ll create some space around it.
The part of you that just notices is golden. That’s because the bit that’s aware is in fact never pissed off, or happy, or calm. It’s just there, alive and aware, like you are.
Normally you’re so trapped in thought that you’re missing life’s vivid experiences. Fully immersing yourself in what’s happening around you brings you back to life. Appreciate the warmth in your hands, the sharp wind, an unexpected stab of anxiety – it’s all so real and most of the time you can’t see it because you’re caught up in your own bullshit.
When you get even the tiniest glimpse of how unlikely and astonishing life is, you’re changed forever.
This type of meditation asks you to be fully present in each moment. So whatever happens, regardless of your mood, how your body feels or the random thoughts in your head – just notice what there is to notice.
You are the space that all experience happens in. You’re the theatre and the thoughts, sounds and sensations are the play.
Don’t single out any feelings, ideas or objects, just let them be exactly as they are. You’re not curating this experience, or presenting it to yourself: it’s being aware of what’s going on that’s important, whether you have an itchy bum, are delighted to be going on holiday or are hurting to the core with grief or loneliness. Let go and receive whatever is there.
If your attention flickers, steady yourself by focusing on your breath. Then take your awareness wide again.
When you stop thinking about it, the world rushes in and makes itself really clear.
The first time this happens to you can come as a thrilling shock. Like you kinda knew it was all there all along, but you weren’t part of it in a meaningful way.
Open Awareness meditation reminds you that you’re as much a part of nature as the weather, birds, planets and the constantly changing light.
This meditation is a radically different way to experience your life. What else are you going to do before teatime?
Thoughts are your way of interpreting what’s happening in the world. They’re a best guess – and not always terribly accurate.
To illustrate this, imagine a wasp lands on you. You hate wasps, you tense up, get anxious, swat it, heart rate goes up. Irritated. What’s the reality here?
A tiny insect brushed your arm. The barest of fleeting sensations. The drama was created by the story in your head: Wasp! Fuck. It’s going to sting me! They always sting me. WASP! It’s gonna hurt! Fucking hate wasps the absolute wankers.
The story in your head determines whether you’re going to react calmly or run naked through your house snapping a tea-towel in the air. The meaning you give things – how you interpret what’s happening – makes a huge difference.
The thoughts in your head are real, as in they exist. But your reasoning, opinions or habitual way of thinking might be flawed and create innacurate thoughts. For example:
There’s a weird vibe at work. You automatically assume:
When any number of things could may have happened…
You are a meaning-creating creature. It’s in your human DNA. You tend to stick yourself in the middle of your own drama.
Making stories up helps you predict and prepare for what might happen. It’s a skill that keeps you safe from internet scams and being hit by cars. It’s the bit of you that thinks up excuses for all the the things you didn’t get right and expect to be punished for.
Being hyper-vigilant like this can lead to endless, exhausting worry. You don’t have to react to every random thought that pops up into your head. Meditation shows the sheer tonnage of nonsense you think within the space of five minutes.
Not all your thoughts are worth responding to!
Every time you notice you’re distracted and bring yourself back to what you’re meditating on, you exercise and grow the ‘attention muscles’ of your mind.
If you meditate regularly, the area of your brain that you use to pay attention to stuff, changes. How? Well, the more you realise how much of your thinking is ridiculous, repetitive or reactive, the less you’ll do it. You’ll think, “Christ on a bike, I’m still finding ways to make myself feel bad about what happened last Saturday! This has to stop.” The annoying thought will probably return, but you will give it less credibility and will shrug it off easier than you did before.
When you’re flexing your attention muscles your thoughts become more rooted in what’s actually happening around you, and less focused on your own grumbly musings. And when you’re more present and engaged in the moment, you will spend less time worrying about stuff you’ve fucked up – or might fuck up in future. That alone will make you feel better.
Your concentration levels will also improve when you notice how easily distracted you are. This means you’ll be more immersed and focussed on the things you enjoy doing. And you’ll handle the things you hate with more awareness, which should help you put some space between your unpleasant experience and your thoughts about it.
Remember you’re not trying to clear your mind during meditation, you’re returning your focus to your breath. Noticing stretches the muscles that will make you happier and less anxious regardless of how often you behave like a complete twonk.