Welcome. I’m looking forward to our month of practice together. Even though the new year has barely begun, it feels as though many of us are feeling tired, increasingly stressed out, and over-burdened. This is a chance for us to begin or deepen a meditation practice, and develop more confidence and clarity in using tools that will help provide renewal, resilience, and connection throughout our everyday lives, as we utilize them.
This first week is devoted to the deepening of concentration. There are several skills in the art of concentration, two prominent ones being balance, and the ability to let go.
Whatever object of awareness we choose to concentrate on, most often, in this case, the feeling of the breath, we rest our attention lightly on that object. Some people think that if they get a stranglehold on their breath, their attention won’t wander. In fact, it will wander more.
For virtually all of us, our minds aren’t going to be perfectly still. There will be thoughts, sometimes a lot of them, and sometimes some really nasty thoughts along with lovely ones. Don’t worry about any of this. Our goal is not to block thoughts or annihilate them. Our goal is to develop a more spacious relationship to all of them so that we can choose which thoughts to act on without being driven by the sheer force of habit.
For now, this means practicing letting go when you have gotten distracted from the breath and gently coming back to the breath. This doesn’t in any way imply that you are a failure or that you are bad at meditating. It actually means you’re doing it correctly.
The transformative moment is after we’ve gotten lost in thought or spun out in a fantasy or we’ve fallen asleep. The moment we emerge from the distraction is when we have the chance to let go gently, and without judging ourselves, begin again.
It’s a good period of experimentation, as there will be several techniques offered. You can see which seems right for you to pursue. Then we’re going to build mindfulness of the body and mindfulness of emotions and thoughts on this foundation of greater stability and centeredness from concentration.
Sometimes, even though it is just a few minutes each day, it can be surprisingly hard to find the time to sit. This, too, is a circumstance where it is important not to dwell in feelings of failure, but instead, realize it as another time we can let go and, with kindness towards ourselves, begin again. One of the reasons we are doing this together is that the group can become a community of support, and we can enjoy this support as we go forward.