Does this sound familiar?
You’ve found time in your busy schedule for meditation. You go to a place where it’s quiet and where you won’t be bothered. You sit down, find a comfortable, supported posture, close your eyes and begin following your breath. The mind begins to settle.
Then it happens. HE begins to speak loudly.
But in this case, HE is not a person. HE is habit energy of ‘doing’ – doing anything but sitting still. And HE convincingly says things like…
“I’m too busy for this today. I’ve got way too much going on. This is not the best use of my time.”
“I’m really distracted so I might as well quit for today and try again tomorrow.”
“Oh my gosh, I didn’t do X. I need to go do it NOW.”
If you’ve ever experienced this, and I’m sure most meditators with busy lives have, the urge to immediately stop meditating can feel like being hit by a tidal wave of urgency. At that point we start believing in that moment that our meditation is literally standing in the way of what is most important to your life.
It’s not surprising we encounter these impulses, and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re a bad meditator. Our mind has been trained over many years to respond immediately to whatever calls for our attention. And when we don’t respond to the urge, we often feel anxious, which in turn reinforces the habit of doing. The strong gravitational pull of a habit like that can be hard to resist.
But the good news is this- if you reflect back on those occurrences, you can see how habit energy influenced you. You can see how the mind created the sense of urgency and can acknowledge that you almost never really need to abandon meditation to immediately go take care of something else.
So, what can be done in the moment during meditation when HE speaks to you? Here are three steps you can use.
- Acknowledge that the impulse to stop is there. While that may sound benign or obvious, it’s actually quite important. A simple, non-judgmental recognition of the urge will almost immediately soften its strength. Often times, using a greeting like, “Hello urge, I see that you’re here now” is a good way to do that. Or you can simply try naming the urge – desire to get up, worry about X, fear about enough time, etc.
2. Shift your attention to how the impulse is felt in your body. The body is a magnificent source for tuning into what is happening with our thoughts and feelings without energizing them further. Chances are that the body will be sending clear signals for what is going on. All that’s necessary is to bring gentle awareness to the sensations in your body that feel linked to the urge to stop meditating. If the sensations are not obvious, consider doing a quick body scan to find where in the body they are being held. Mindful attention to the body will further ease the grip of the thoughts and feelings.
3. Finally, open-heartedly embrace the desire to stop meditating. That might sound counter-intuitive, but embracing in this context doesn’t mean indulging in it or confirming its merit. Opening your heart to your experience, regardless of what that might be, is an act of self-compassion and self-acceptance, which by itself is transformative.
If you apply these steps, it’s very likely you won’t get up from your meditation, regardless of how HE interrupts it.
I’m very interested in hearing any feedback. Please feel free to send me an email at email@example.com.
John Cregier is a business executive and consultant with 35 years of leadership experience in both technology and general business domains. His life has been deeply influenced by a mindfulness practice that began almost 25 years ago.
John’s professional experience is primarily with a regional wireless operator where he served in the capacity of CIO for 9 years. He also held key leadership roles in marketing and general operations. More recently he founded a consulting firm which provides advisory services focused on IT strategy and investments, and helping firms navigate complex technology-based transformations.
As a Senior Instructor for the Institute for Mindful Leadership, John is inspired to use his real-life experience of leading mindfully to help leaders unlock their true potential and improve their well-being in today’s challenging business environment.
John will be offering the Institute’s groundbreaking Finding the Space to Lead mindful leadership curriculum, developed by Institute Founder and Director Janice Marturano, at the Mindful Leadership Summit, being held at 1440 Multiversity this April 11-12, 2018.