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Mindfulness | What To Expect

What To Expect

When you first begin to meditate, you may be surprised at how active your mind is. You may even think your mind is too busy to meditate. You are not alone. This is often one of the first insights of practice—discovering just how busy the mind is. Sometimes this is described as “monkey mind.” So, part of your practice is to simply notice your thoughts—without judgment. Noticing where the mind has gone off to without getting lost in the content, then bringing the attention back to the object of attention. Do this again and again. It doesn’t matter how many times you do this and every time you do, is a moment of mindfulness.
“The untrained mind is like a wild horse.” - Sakyong Mipham

Common issues for meditators

The five obstacles to practice (or “hindrances” as they referred to in Buddhism) are:

  • Grasping: Wanting more of something or wanting something other than what’s happening right now.
  • Aversion: Fear, worry, frustration, anger, resistance, or any form of pushing away.
  • Restlessness: Jumpy energy, agitation.
  • Sloth and torpor: Sleepiness; sinking states of mind and body.
  • Doubt: This is a mind trap that says, “it’s no use, this will never work, maybe there’s an easier way.”

Meditators experience all of these states. During sitting practice, if you notice one of these obstacles, it is useful to name it silently to yourself (e.g., “restlessness,” “worry,” “sleepiness”). If this difficult energy is strong, try not to pull away from it; instead, bring your attention to it with a kind curiosity. Let yourself experience it fully through the sensations in your body, neither getting lost in it nor pushing it away. As best you can, watch what happens without judgment. Let it dissipate as it will, then return to the primary object of your meditation.

As Bhante Henepola Gunaratana encourages in Mindfulness in Plain English, “Examine [the hindrances] to death.” When you clearly see the suffering (stress) created by grasping and aversion, you will naturally start to let them go.

Sustaining a practice

Here are a few helpful hints for sustaining your sitting practice:

  • Sit every day, even if it is for only a short period.
  • A few times during each day, establish contact with your body and breath.
  • Practice regularly with a group or a friend.
  • Use inspiring resources such as books or guided recordings, podcasts or talks.
  • Sign up for a retreat—one day, a weekend, or longer. The experience will not only deepen your practice but can be transformational.
  • If you miss a day, a week, or a month, simply begin again.
  • If you need guidance, ask for help from an experienced meditator or teacher.

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