Not doing my meditation practice is nothing short of falling off the wagon for me.  I found out the hard way recently when I temporarily ‘fell off the ‘cushion and stopped meditating.   I had all the right excuses of being too busy to squeeze in my daily meditation.  The days turned into a couple of weeks and though I was noticing a sharpness coming back to my edges, a shorter sense of tolerance, impatience and loss of all things easy-going fading into the distance it somehow seemed easier to just keep pushing and being pulled into old habits!  Our “coping mechanisms”, what we like to call our personalities, that old “oh that’s just the way I am”, (better known as excuses or justifications for acting a certain way), comes in making us temporarily numb.

I knew I had gone too far when I had a complete meltdown, in front of my Mother, my kids, some friends, and even a few people I didn’t know all over getting lost, in the dark, in the rain, out of gas and no GPS!  Really as each moment unfolded and I became more anxious, more distressed, more angry with myself and the people who kept giving me the wrong directions, or the lack of street signs, or good lighting, or the fact that my GPS on my iPhone kept telling me “no directions available”, I was livid, and coming apart at the seams.  I eventually found my way, made it home, everyone survived except my ego of course, which was in tatters.  I was mad at the world, but really mostly at myself for falling apart like that.

The next morning I got up, reached for my Kindle and found my way back to the basics with Pema Chodron’s wonderful book, “How to Meditate, A Guide to Making Friends with your Mind”!  Within moments I was able to let myself off the hook and everyone else and realized immediately that these old habits do die hard and making new ones that become healthy knee jerk reactions will take as much practice as I’ve given the old ones.  That reassured me that returning to the basics once again was always a good place to be. I’m feeling back to my old self again, lighter, a little easier going, a sense of humor towards my frailties and compassion with others.  It’s a simple little practice with very big rewards, a daily dose of Sitting, Breathing, maybe Journaling a bit if my mind is too busy, and then doing it again the next day and the next, taking to the cushion one day at a time.

The Practice –

Find a comfortable place to sit with support for your back and knees.  A cushion, a chair, a relaxed upright position is the best to keep yourself from falling asleep and to train the mind that this is an awakened aware state of mind!  Have a journal next to you with a pen or pencil incase your mind is really full and you need to “empty the container”!

Start with 3 deep breaths in through the nose and slowly out through the mouth to prepare the body and mind and bring your awareness into the breath.  Then allow the breath to flow in and out of the nostrils, noticing the temperature and quality of the breath.  Perhaps it is deep or shallow.

You are becoming the observer of the function of breath, the wandering mind, the sensations of the body, taking it all in and not getting lost in any one area for long.  Being the observer allows you to sort of orchestrate things as they are coming up.  If you feel tension in your back you can notice it, breathe into it and hang out with it until you notice something changes or something distracts you.  It is bound to happen, and quickly.  We are easily distracted and our reactions are lightening quick.  As we practice sitting, noticing, observing, occasionally reminding ourselves that we are breathing by labeling the “inhale and the exhale” as they happen, we develop more skill at interrupting the patterns as they arise.  If we are scared, angry, frustrated, or lost, we can experience it from the point of view of the observer and ride the breath, be patient with it, instead of getting completely swept away by it and sort of losing our minds!

Practicing meditation then becomes an ability to come back to the moment to catch our self falling off the cushion, it’s a sobering moment of, “OH wait, I was getting completely swept away by some reaction in my mind, but I can stay right here and breath through it and see what happens next”!

Good luck and don’t worry, like me you can just get right back up on the cushion and try try again!