Dealing with turbulence

The image that most people have of meditation is of something very peaceful. When we see someone meditating it looks so pleasant! So it often comes as a shock when we start to meditate and what we first encounter is lots of turbulence.

It’s easy to be discouraged when you start meditating and you don’t feel calm at all. When we start to meditate we discover how much agitation there is in our mind. But that’s so precious. It’s getting to know yourself in a direct way.

Then we have to bring our mind to some kind of basic stability. Otherwise it’s like looking at very turbulent muddy water. There’s no transparency. That’s why we try to maintain our focus on a simple object, for instance the breathing.

If at that stage your attention keeps wandering from the object and you have to bring it back don’t worry and above all, don’t have a sense of failure. I notice that some people think they should be calm and there’s something wrong with them because there is so much movement in their mind.

The fact of being aware of the movement is great, and yes it takes a lot of repeated effort at the beginning to tame our wild thoughts. The training of the mind is a long term process. When we engage in that process we’re working on ourselves at a deep level, and we need a little patience to let that voyage of discovery unfold.

Often the first benefits of meditation appear at moments we’re not actually meditating. There might be fleeting moments of meditative calm during the day which just arise for no apparent reason. We might find that we are developing an enhanced capacity to handle our emotions, or that we have a finer sensitivity in our dealings with others. Gradually an underlying sense of stability can develop, which isn’t completely lost even at moments when we’re excited or upset.

The best approach is to just make the practice part of your everyday life and let the progress of your meditation evolve at its own pace.

When we plant something in the garden we need to put it in good soil we make sure that it has light and water. Some plants grow fast and others grow slowly, but growing fast is not necessarily better. Each plant needs to develop in its own way to fulfil its potential for producing leaves, flowers and fruits.

Through our meditation and our efforts to develop mindfulness and loving kindness in our life we can nurture our marvellous potential. Each of us is different but we all have an enormous capacity for kindness and clarity that we are starting to unlock.