In my classes, I often talk about how mindfulness and meditation are not spa-days. People sometimes arrive to a meditation with the expectation that I will make them happy with magic meditative guidance. Apologetically I inform them that this is not the practice of meditation.
Mindfulness practices increase feelings of well-being and alters our relationship with stress and anxiety, as well as with suffering and life in general. This takes practice, and not just in one session. We do not expect to run a great marathon time without running daily, and the same goes for finding a sense of peace in one’s life. It takes practice.
This practice is not always blissful. When we allow ourselves to simply be present, we often meet resistance. We feel sleepy, hungry, bored–all sorts of feelings arise, some that are truly here, and others distracting us from feelings we may unconsciously be trying to ignore; stress, anxiety, sadness, fear.
Pushing away or avoiding unwanted feelings is an unsuccessful strategy and actually perpetuates the avoided feeling. Ironically some people avoid good feelings too. Sitting on a beach on vacation and yet the mind is wondering where the next vacation will be, or reminiscing on last year’s vacation. We have developed a habit of disconnecting from the only moment that we can actually experience—right now.
People come to meditation because they are looking for an alternative approach. They decide there must be a better way. However often they want that alternate approach to feel like a spa day and “cure” them… all in the span of the next 15 minutes.
We are practicing cultivating kind-hearted moment-to-moment awareness. Sadness is here in the moment – Okay, how is it? Sleepiness is here – Beautiful, what is it like? The sun is warming my face – what is warmness feel like? It is not easy and yet it is simple. Often we find that when we allow ourselves to touch our experiences with awareness they change. We may find that what we are avoiding is not the feeling of sadness, but our thoughts that sadness will continue into the next moment, and the next, forever. Believing that if we allow ourselves to feel sadness, it will never leave. Paradoxically it is actually avoiding a feeling that keeps it lingering around. With enjoyable feelings, we fear that if we do not plan on how to get more it will “runout”, meanwhile we miss the experience all together.
Do not take my word for it. Experience it for yourself, stay curious, and give the practice a chance. When we learn to be present to our moment-to-moment experience, we learn how to meet our challenges and enjoy our spa days.