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Mindful : April 2017
what breathing is in this moment, as a tangible, complete experience. That’s why even when someone is practicing in a way that makes them feel like they’re checked out most of the time, something deeper happens. Meditation happens. Why does it happen that way? Again, it is because we are doing something so different from our usual mode. And when we do it repeat- edly, our habits of attention begin to shift, and tangible effects creep up on us. The world can be more vivid, even when you’re wallowing in your story of being a shitty meditator. In the midst of your I-am-a -shitty-meditator story, your experi- ence is punctured by moments of vividness. The simple practice of sitting and walking and sitting and walking on retreat is radically differ- ent, an order of magnitude different, from our usual way of attending to the world. Usually, our mind’s rampant hopping around leads us to get lost in thought worlds constantly: experiencing the world as a cascade of stories we’re often not aware of. Intentionally attending for a moment— and repeating this many, many times—will undermine this habit of living lost in thought. Settling After a while, our attention learns to settle, and when the mind can settle, the body can settle. When the body settles, the mind settles more. All from this one little thing. When we train our attention in this very modest, no-big-deal way, stability begins to emerge of its own accord; if you tried really, really hard to be a great medita- tor, to be really, really stable, it wouldn’t work. Practicing meditation in daily life is impor- tant, but having a chance to do a couple of intensive days is qualitatively a little different. Give it a try, if you’re up for it. When you spend more time coming back, and coming back, and coming back, attention tends to become more stable. It’s not seeking so much. You can be with a sound, without an agenda. You can be with a feeling in your body, like frustration, without habitually reacting to it, without having to be for or against it. Usually if I feel frustrated, I have to doggedly seek the solution. No time to actually feel it fully. Maybe I start chewing, ruminating, munching on things in my mind, chewing them over and over again, anxiously. It gives the mind something to do, to occupy itself. Not so stable. A dog with an endless supply of chew toys. In meditation, you might get a little of that empty feeling you feel when nothing particular is happening, a kind of blandness or blahness. → April 2017 mindful 71 insight