When we practice meditation we are strengthening our ability to be steadfast with ourselves. No matter what comes up — aching bones, boredom, falling asleep, or the wildest thoughts and emotions — we develop a loyalty to our experience. We sit under all kinds of circumstances — whether we are feeling healthy or sick, whether we’re in a good mood or depressed, whether we feel our meditation is going well or is completely falling apart. As we continue to sit we see that meditation isn’t about getting it right or attaining some ideal state. It’s about being able to stay present with ourselves. It becomes increasingly clear that we won’t be free of self-destructive patterns unless we develop a compassionate understanding of what they are.
Pema Chodron, The Places that Scare you
I first heard the phrase “just start over” from Sharon Salzburg….who told us about her own struggle with learning to meditate – how she would become lost, distracted, and discouraged and would constantly second-guess herself and her teachers. Gradually she learned to pay no attention to the mental and emotional chatter and to just start over by meditating on her breath as she had been instructed. “Just start over” became her mantra, which she now teaches to her students.
As you know if you’ve ever tried to meditate, the mind is constantly being pulled away from its object of concentration by bodily sensations and mental activity, causing you to lose awareness of the present moment. In this same way, when strong feelings arise during your daily life, you get swept up in the story they create. You lose the awareness that enables you respond skillfully to events and that gives you peace of mind in the face of difficulty….. You have the mistaken notion that you must know why you have a problem and must get rid of it before you can act in a more self-empowering manner. “Starting-over” practice takes a different approach. It switches your focus away from dwelling on those characteristics that limit you and redirects it toward recognizing your strengths from which you can realize your potential…. In so doing, you free yourself from your judging mind that thinks it can control results and creates the grandiose expectation that you can do more than you can do in the present moment. You become a more effective person by simply learning to use your time and energy to do what you can do right now.
photo serge melkei
We do less by taking the time to rest mentally and physically in between or outside of our usual activities, perhaps instituting a regular practice of meditation, retreats, breaks, and reflection.
We do less by pausing in the midst of activities: mindfulness practice (such as coming in touch with our breath in between reading or sending emails) and walking meditation are two examples.
We do less by identifying and reducing unnecessary activities. In this case, “unnecessary” means those things that are not in alignment with what we want to accomplish.
Marc Lesser, Accomplishing More by Doing Less
Self-love involves a yes to myself in whatever I am going through, instead of holding on to some concept of what or how I should be. Any idea I have about who I am or who I should be is never accurate, for it always falls short of the living presence that I am, as this unfolds freshly in each new moment. Who I am is not a fixed entity but a dynamic stream of experiencing that is alive in every moment – when I let myself happen.
“Ain’t you thinkin’ what’s it gonna be like when we get there? Ain’t you scared it won’t be nice like we thought?”
“No”, she said quickly. “No, I ain’t. You can’t do that. I can’t do that. It’s too much – livin’ too many lives.
Up ahead they’s a thousan’ lives we might live, but when it comes, it’ll on’y be one”.
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath