Do you feel like practicing mindfulness when you’ve just been ditched by your partner? Or when you’ve been laid off?
Chances are you don’t. Me neither.
In a dark period, you wish you could just stay in bed and fast forward until the pain is gone.
You know that your best option would be to meditate since mindfulness relieves depression and anxiety.
Unfortunately, depression and anxiety also act like powerful obstacles to practice: they rob you of any will to practice.
Nearly all the meditators I know have that problem, I guess we’re all the same in that regard.
How to stick with meditation in hard times and make it a powerful ally, not just a drag?
To answer this question, I collected practical advice from Buddhist masters and advanced practitioners during 15 years, I summarized them below.
This post will show you how to smash the “meditator’s procrastination” no matter what hardships you’re going through.
FIRST THOUGHT, BEST THOUGHT
Meditation can be the very first thing you do in the morning.
If you decide to do it before anything else, you’ll win 50% of the battle against a crappy day.
As you wake up, just sit right away on your pillow and start meditating.
Do it before you plan your day, before you brood over the misery you’re going through.
Do it even before you take a cup of coffee.
That’s a great strategy because it doesn’t even give you a chance to find excuses not to meditate. By the time you’re fully awake, you’re done with your practice.
Sounds too simple?
That’s why this strategy is so powerful: it’s simple and it cuts through the painful mental bush that would disempower you otherwise.
Don’t negotiate with yourself.
If you know you’re in a bad place, no matter what the reason is, be stubborn and go meditate. Don’t pay attention to the drama going on in your life.
In order to go sit on your pillow when you feel bad, you need to be deaf to all the reasons your mind gives you to procrastinate.
Picture a zombie that walks when he sees food, it will walk, no matter what.
You need to be like a brain-dead creature, totally conditioned by the call of practice.
You won’t make it by being smart here, but by being stubborn. Program yourself not to be satisfied until you’ve meditated.
There’s a famous Buddhist story about perseverance in meditation: the Tibetan Yogi Milarepa gave his best disciple a piece of advice before dying. He showed his bare bottom, all calloused, for his disciple to see how much he had sat meditating, not missing an opportunity for practice, even when he had to sit on bare rocks, up in the mountains.
OK, it sounds extreme, but it shows a direction to follow as meditators.
THE HAPPY PIG
Think about a pig rolling in the mud, a happy pig that perceives his mud pond like a playground.
Pigs don’t care, you shouldn’t either.
When we’re trampling in horrible circumstances or disturbing emotions, our first reaction is to try to stay away from all that by seeking distractions (TV, Facebook, food…).
No wonder meditating doesn’t appeal to us then: it’s all about being right here, right now.
Right here, right now, in the muck of our daily troubles?
That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid!
Jump in the mud pond and sit, accept the first minutes of discomfort as you face your situation then apply your meditation instructions as usual.
There’s a form of acceptance that can be reached by sitting through a hard time, and bliss, sometimes.
REMEMBER: YOU CAN’T SCREW UP
A typical excuse I use when I’m miserable and I try to not go meditate is the idea of screwing up.
After all, since I feel bad and confused, there’s no way I can meditate properly, right?
Do you experience that too?
Well, there is no screwing up in meditation, they say: once you’re meditating, you do the best you can.
Your best is simply the best.
And you can be happy about your practice…As long as you make it to your pillow.
Of course there’s always a risk of applying your meditation instructions badly, but it’s never as bad as not to meditate at all.
Com’ on, let’s face it, the real screw up is not to meditate. Once we get started, we can only improve, no matter what difficulties we experience :-)