The Saskatoon Insight Meditation Community is pleased to have a great group of bloggers joining the 2017 Real Happiness Meditation Challenge. I’m happy to be part of the team again this year.
We just finished hosting a retreat with Adrianne Ross. One of the things we explored in that retreat aligns with the topic of this first week of the challenge: concentration.
I know when I first learned about “concentration” in meditation, I thought I had to scrunch my mind up tight, and really, really focus on the breath – much like I might do if I was trying to concentrate on solving a tough programming problem at work. As Sharon reminds us in her week one post, the idea is to rest our attention lightly on the object of awareness.
In the retreat, Adrianne gave a wonderful analogy that helped me visualize this balancing between effort and concentration: holding out one hand, bring a finger from your other hand and just lightly make contact with your outstretched palm. That light touch is all the effort we need to do to connect with the breath. Then we try to sustain that connection, that light touch. We’re not trying to push too hard, and we don’t want to space out and lose contact.
We’re connecting and sustaining attention.
It sounds simple… but it’s not easy. There I was, on the fourth day of this retreat, and my mind kept flitting away. “What’s for lunch?” “How icy are the sidewalks after the freezing rain?” “Why did I say that silly thing the other day?” And noticing frustration arise: “Why am I so bad at meditation?!” If I was using the analogy of the finger touching the palm of the other hand, my finger would float off a bit, and return, and fly far away, and return, and when frustration got mixed in, then I might jam that finger hard onto the other hand, pushing it away.
So I remind myself: This is a practice. This is what frustration feels like in this moment. I wasn’t frustrated before, and I won’t be frustrated later – things change.
Every moment is a chance to have a fresh start.
And so I settle again. A light contact with the breath. And again. It’s a practice.
I look forward to practicing with you as we embark on this month-long challenge together.
With best wishes,