and Meditation Teacher Lorin
Roche, Ph.D. offers
insight into how we make ourselves
uncomfortable during meditation and how we can change this approach
How to Make Yourself Miserable in Meditation
case I didn’t list the perfect Odious Rule for you, just make one up.
Anything that totally goes against your grain is OK. It will surely
make you miserable.
you are sitting in a group of ten people for a meditation class and the
instruction is given, “OK, let’s all close our eyes and find something
about our breathing to enjoy,” maybe five to seven people willl find
something to enjoy. One person will sit there sort of perplexed, not
knowing where to begin. A couple of people will be sitting there
scowling. If you ask one of them what he is doing, he might say,
“I was trying to block out noise.” Inquiring further, you would find
that he was starting to become aware of his breath, then he heard a
sound somewhere, then he briefly wondered what the sound was, then he
invented an Odious Rule on the spot that he should not hear the sound,
then he got angry (or else he was recalling an internalized, angry
parental voice), and then disgusted, he returned to his breath. This
all took place in ten seconds. This guy is not going to have a happy
time in meditation. His critical inner voice will win every time. Not
only that, but it will get to score a hit on him by proving that he
failed at meditation.
alert when you are starting to make up an Odious Rule, and start making
fun of it. The rules can vary from person to person. For one person it
may be “You have to make your mind blank,” and for another it might be,
“You have to believe in the teacher,” or “You’re not allowed to feel
too happy,” or “Mood swings must be controlled.” Sometimes it is just
the voice of the Inner Rebel that must be banned, and obliterated with
the drone of the mantra.
way of finding out if you are being run by an Odious Rule you have
going is to notice whatever you call “difficult.” If you have any
feeling of difficulty at any time during meditation, check in with what
rules you have made up. When people say meditation is “difficult” and I
ask them to describe in detail what is going on, often one or more of
these is going on:
Some thoughts flash through very rapidly and everyone knows thoughts should obey the “thought speed limit” and move slowly, gracefully, with immense decorum, like a funeral procession.
Sensations in the body are calling your attention and everyone knows that the body is supposed to be numb during meditation.
Tension is being released--the body is going into relaxation and by contrast the tense areas show up--and everyone knows that tension is supposed to instantly disappear, like kitchen stains do in TV commercials.
are welling up and you don’t want to feel them. Everyone knows you’re not allowed
to cry during meditation. Or else, “unauthorized” emotions are coming
up. This is different for everyone.
tendency is just in the culture. Not everyone has to deal with it right
away. All meditators have to deal with it eventually. If the “Made
Difficult” instruction set comes up and wants to take over your
meditation, just make fun of it. Don’t get into a struggle with the
tendency to make things difficult. It’s a tar baby.
you approach the activity of meditating in a healthy way, you violate
all the dysfunctional rules you may have learned along the way: don’t
feel, don’t think, don’t wiggle, don’t ask questions, don’t be angry,
don’t be sexual, don’t doubt, don’t be a rebel, don’t do it your own
way, do it the official way.
you are not meditating everyday, it could be that you do not know
enough about the way your individuality meets meditation. You may be
trying to squeeze yourself into too small a box. Your technique should
feel totally relaxing--a refuge, a vacation, a rejuvenating retreat.
is one of the great things you can do for yourself, your health, and
those you love. It’s a way of accessing your natural self-healing
instincts. The practice is so restful that within 5 minutes of
beginning a meditation, there is a 17% reduction in oxygen consumption,
compared to the 8% reduction of deep sleep, according to research
conducted at Harvard Medical School over the last 34 years. This allows
the body to heal itself deeply; cholesterol goes down, stress hormones
are reduced, and the immune system is boosted. All the standard
meditation techniques produce similar physiological effects, but the
more natural your technique feels to you, the deeper you will go.
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