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Inspiring health and happiness in body, mind and spirit

Just Sit

June 8, 2011
Meditation sounds so simple. You slip onto the floor, relax your body, and quiet your mind. After a few moments of this simple practice - if what you've heard is true - you dissolve into an ocean of cool serenity and easy bliss. And your life is transformed.

Here's the dirty little secret: Meditation may be simple, but it isn't easy.

If you decide to give it a try, here's what will likely happen: You'll sit down, exhale deeply and soften your muscles. You'll invite your mind to empty. You'll focus on your breath. Your mind will stray. You'll bring it back to the breath. Another thought will pop up. You'll moan internally and then return to the breath. A fear will pop up, a fantasy, a regret, and then a plan. Within just a few minutes you will discover a jungle of wild beasts in your brain, screeching madly and swinging from trees and scratching and disturbing the peace in any way possible.

That's how it started out for me, anyway. I had heard so many good things about meditation that I was determined to take on the practice. I tried every technique I could find to help silence those unruly thoughts that seemed to ricochet off the walls of my brain. I tried focusing on the breath, listening to the sounds around me, visualizing flowers, reciting exotic mantras. Every day I found good reason to abandon the practice.

And then one day I stumbled upon a remedial meditation practice. In a fit of low energy and half-hearted dedication, I decided to sit still for 15 minutes with no expectation that anything would happen to my mind. Surely I could manage to just sit quietly in a grown up version of a kid's "time out."

Surprisingly, even this was difficult. I liked it, though, and stuck with the practice for several months. Just sitting felt challenging but manageable. I didn't feel like I'd set myself up for inevitable failure in the 'blissed-out brain" department. I decided that while I may not be able to quiet my mind and unlock the doors to endless tranquility, I could insert a little window of physical quiet into my days.

Over time, I discovered that just asking myself to sit and watch what happened - curious and alert but with no great expectations - nudged me toward a more formal meditation practice, a practice that does, on occasion, lead to moments of deep calm and contentment. I now understand why meditation feels a quiet sanctuary for so many people.

Interested in giving my remedial practice a try? My invitation to you is to just sit. Anywhere, anytime, for 10 to 15 minutes or so. No big deal, no high expectations, just a little break from the world of doing. Just sit and watch, with no expectation that you will grow quiet or focused or will even enjoy it. Just sit and watch the world around you. Just sit, and watch what happens to the body and the brain.

Give the practice a week or perhaps even a month to reveal itself. Is this easy or difficult? Do you look forward to sitting or dread it? Where does your mind stray to when it has no easy diversions to entertain it? What thoughts bubble up? What do you learn about yourself? Do you sense a possibility that this simple practice could offer you clues about the nature of peace, contentment and well-being?

My hope is that over time, you will discover that a quiet, easy body can coax a mind to grow quiet, easy mind, too.