Most people learn the basics of meditation in some introductory workshop or practice group at their local church or meditation retreat center.
What is most important is to be patient as you seek to develop a daily meditation practice, or as you proceed from the good beginning you have made.
Most people will probably not be able to find twenty minutes in the morning and another twenty minutes before dinner to sit and focus on their breath or sacred word.
Their lives are either too busy, or they are not sure there is enough benefit to meditation to make times of silence and stillness a strong priority. Be patient as you continue to discern whether there is sufficient benefit to be gained from meditation and the related practices of Yoga or T’ai Chi to make these efforts a centerpiece of your daily schedule.
Continue to seek out those places in your community where you can go and sit with others for twenty minutes or, if possible, for longer periods. Being around other people who have chosen meditation as an important part of their life will be helpful. This comment is offered assuming that those people are open-minded and mature enough that they are not pushing their style of meditation as the “only true way”.
Continue to seek out people who have been practicing for many years whose personal insights, comments, and general demeanor indicate they have found the peace and clarity you are looking for. Having regular dialogue with a competent instructor will be of real help.
But patience may be needed in your search to find others to sit with. Patience may also be needed in the search for a teacher or mentor. Most meditation teachers are too closely tied to one tradition. They tend to be very Catholic, or very Buddhist, or very Zen, or very Kabbalah, or very Sufi, or very 12-step, or very Greek Orthodox, or very Hindu etc. If one of these traditions is the one you are drawn to that is great. Any reasonably well trained teacher in that tradition will be able to help you get started. Over time you can find the teacher who really is a good match to help you with the intermediate and advanced stages of the journey.
For those who do sit in meditation on a daily basis, or at least on most days, patience is also needed. There will be times when there is real peace and ease to your meditation practice and you will get the sense, “Good, I am really getting somewhere with meditation.”
There will be other times when then session will drag on and on and on. You may need to fidget every few minutes and are constantly losing focus on your breath of sacred word.
It may seem that meditation is both incredibly boring and frustrating and you may start to wonder, “Perhaps this really is not for me, or, I guess I just don’t have the special skill with this that others do. Be patient when such thoughts arise within you.
Every time you are willing to sit in silence and stillness and try to focus the mind is valuable, whether the meditation is peaceful or quite frustrating.
Do not try to force the mind to settle into a state of deeper peace if it just is not happening.
It is enough to continue to maintain your focus on the breath or sacred phrase, or image that is the object of your meditation. If you are struggling in any session or retreat you may wish to turn your attention to different points in the body for a very detailed examination of bodily sensations or a detailed study of the particular emotion-tone you are experiencing.
If you feel a need to fidget, be patient, hold off for another twenty or thirty seconds and try to notice more closely the itch on your cheek, or the pain in your knee. Just observe the details of the sensation you are seeing and notice the minute changes in those sensations. See if you can wait it out until the discomfort subsides. If you still feel a need to scratch or move, then consciously decide in what way you will move and notice the changing sensations of the move as you shift and as you come back to stillness.
For those who cannot sit for twenty or thirty minutes, can you sit for five or ten or two minutes before you get into the daily chores and activities or before you go to bed.
For beginners and those who are more established in their practice remember to remember: patience is one of the most important practices of the path.
It is easy to overlook the value of something as simple as cultivating patience as one searches for esoteric teachings. But it is the cultivation of the simple practices to a higher degree than most generally do that is the secret of practice.
If you have a moment please let me know what is happening with your efforts to practice meditation and Yoga or T’ai Chi. Do you feel stuck? Do you feel you are moving forward?
Let me know if you would like a copy of a chapter from my book “The Simple Path of Holiness. I would be glad to send you an e-copy of either “The Basics of Practice” or “Stillness, Silence, and Emptiness” at no charge.
Will firstname.lastname@example.org 774-232-0884
Author of the Simple Path of Holiness
Host of MeditationPractice.com