Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Just Because It's Hard Doesn't Mean It's Bad

Some years back, a new student attended one of the weekend sitting groups that I lead. Afterward, we talked briefly about her first experience with vipassana, and she mentioned that she has a hard time just sitting still. Hoping to help this student, I suggested that perhaps a moving meditation might be more effective, if sitting still for extended periods is too hard. "Oh, no," she replied, “hard does not necessarily mean that it’s ‘bad’.”

For the most part, however, most people do not like to do the things that are hard. I am reminded of President John Kennedy’s famous speech in 1961, when he was announcing his goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth by the end of that decade. “We do these things,” he said, “not because they are easy but because they are hard.”

Introspective practices, such as meditation or yoga, share this quality. We do them because they provide us with inner obstacles over which we can climb or move through, and in doing so, we come out stronger on the other side. We invite the difficulty in small, controlled ways, so that we can face the difficulties in our daily life that are big and not within our control.

During your sitting meditation, or in your yoga practice, when the hard stuff presents itself, see if you can first of all turn toward it and acknowledge its presence. After all, if it is here, it must be known. Allow the difficult experience to simply "be," while you note how it moves through the physical body as sensation or as feelings of emotion. Then notice how the mind tells its stories about the situation, how it creates preferences and judgments about it, and the way it wants things to be other than the way they are.

By taking this course of action (or non-action) toward difficult events in our practice life, we can be more skillful and graceful in taking action (or non-action) in our daily life.
Each difficult moment has the potential to open my eyes and open my heart. ~ Myla Kabat-Zinn

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