11 secrets to successful meditation are all about shifting your attitude during the practice.
As I mentioned a couple weeks ago when talking about hardwiring happiness, I’m enrolled in a 8-week mindfulness and meditation course and this week is the last class actually. I’m totally bummed to see it end but am grateful for all I’ve learned thus far and am feeling inspired to continue to learn more about my practice and myself.
During the course, our teacher has shared several reading assignments with us to support our learning outside of the classroom. There was one reading I really enjoyed called Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana Mahathera. In the fourth chapter on “attitude”, Mahathera walks through 11 rules for shifting your attitude during your meditation to find success in your practice and I wanted to paraphrase those for you today.
I think one of the reasons that meditation can be so challenging is that many of us (myself included) approach it the wrong way, with the wrong attitude or preconceived notions. Reading through this passage helped me realize where I’ve been going wrong with my meditation and how I can change my attitude to have a better practice. I’m definitely guilty of #1 and #3 lately and am focusing my efforts there during my meditation practice this week.
- Let go of expectations. Don’t get caught up in the results of your practice. Don’t dwell on the benefits you read you should be receiving. You need to sit back, relax, and see what happens. Let the meditation unfold and treat the whole thing as one big experiment – where you’re observing, not expecting.
- Don’t strain. Try not to force yourself through your practice or make any big effort. Allow yourself to be relaxed.
- Avoid rushing. You shouldn’t feel hurried during your practice. You should sit as if you have the whole day to sit. Cultivate patience.
- Don’t cling to anything and don’t reject anything. Observe all of your thoughts (positive or negative) as you would with clouds passing through the sky. Thoughts will come and go so just watch them pass by but try not to attach to them or reject them. Let your thoughts come and go naturally and view the positive thoughts as equal to the negative.
- Let go. Learn to go with the flow of all the changes and thoughts that come up during your practice. Loosen up.
- Accept everything that comes up. Don’t bash yourself for having negative thoughts or experiences – accept all that arises – even if you hate it, even if it’s uncomfortable. Learn to see everything in the mind as being perfectly natural and cultivate some understanding around it.
- Be kind to yourself. You’re all you’ve got to work with during your practice, so be gentle with yourself. “The process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are”.
- Investigate yourself. Question anything and everything. Don’t take anything for granted. Subject everything you hear to the test of your own experience and let your own results guide you to the truth. The practice of meditation is based upon the desire to be awake to the truth.
- View all problems as challenges. Don’t run from your problems. Use them as an opportunity to learn and grow.
- Don’t ponder. Don’t feel as though you need to figure it all out during your practice. Don’t think, just see and observe.
- Don’t dwell upon comparisons. Be careful not to dwell upon differences between people as this only leads to negative emotions like jealousy, greed, envy, pride, and egotism. Rather, notice the similarities between people – what we have in common with one another. The reason we focus on breathing during meditation is because it is a universal process – something we have in common with all other beings. For more on how to stop comparing yourself to others, click here.
Practicing in this way by cultivating the attitudes above is meant to feel kind of weird and unnatural at first. But the good news is, over time, these attitudes and ways of thinking will become second nature and you’ll approach your day-to-day life with more understanding and peace.
Which attitudes do you struggle with in meditation or just mindfulness? Can you choose one of the above to work on this week?