Observations 3.3 – The Practice of Beginning Again

I often refer to the concept of practice in my writing.  Two previous posts are Improvement Through Practice and  The Value of Practice.  I am learning about a new dimension of the value of practice with regard to meditation.

I have a keen interest in fortifying my mindset and the value of meditating comes up often in many of the podcasts I listen to.  I only had a vague notion of what meditation was. Let me be honest, if it required sitting on the floor with my legs crossed it was not going to be for me.  Keeping an open mind, I decided to find out more.

I listened to two books on the topic last year: 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris and Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book also by Dan Harris.

In December 2018 I listened to Podcast #34 – Sam Harris, Ph.D.: The transformative power of mindfulness by Peter Attia at The Drive.

I decide to pull the meditation trigger on the Waking Up app on January 19th, 2019 and this dimension of my journey began.  I am not “woo-woo-ish” nor a coinsurer of the cosmic dust from the universe.  I find this app and Sam’s voice compatible with my pragmatism and occasional use “groovy” and “vibes” (smile).

The words below are not mine.  They are from the lesson “Begin Again” in the app. The ideas strongly resonated with me and I will visit these thoughts often.  I find that they may be useful for anyone, whether you practice meditation or not.  There is value in keeping an open mind when reading these words and trying not to get caught up in unfamiliar “meditationy” words like consciousness. I find practicing beginning again to be a calming, clear reset. I look forward to continuing getting better at beginning again.

Enjoy!

When we practice medication, one of the things we learn is how to begin again in each moment.  You notice that you are distracted and have been lost in thought for who knows how long and suddenly you return to a clear witnessing of the content of consciousness. 

You notice a sound or the breath or some other sensations in your body. Or you see the present thought itself unravelling and in this clear noticing that this next appearance in consciousness we are training our minds.

We’re are practicing a willingness to simply return to the present moment, without judgement without disappointment, without contraction, with a mind that is standing truly free of the past.

It is always possible to recover this freedom no matter what happens.

Let’s say you notice you are distracted and rather than just observe the sound or sensation you are immediately plunged into self judgement, you’re annoyed, you subscribed to this damn app and you are supposed to be meditating, but you just spent the last five minutes thinking about something you saw on television last night.

But you can break this spell and begin again at any point, by just noticing self-judgement and frustration as appearances.  And the truth is they’re as good as anything else you can notice when it comes to revealing the intrinsic freedom of consciousness, it’s openness, it’s centerlessness, it’s selflessness.  Honestly, frustration, real frustration, a mind like a clenched fist is just as good as the breath or a sound or an expansive emotion like joy, if you’ll just drop back and recognize what consciousness is like in that moment.

Now this ability to begin again has ethical force as well.  Essentially the foundation for forgiveness.  The only way to truly forgive another person or one’s self is to restart the clock in the present. And this habit of mind allows for a resilience that we can’t otherwise find.  And they’re literally hundreds of opportunities each day to practice it.  If you notice that a conversation with a friend or family member or colleague isn’t going very well, or you’re not having fun at a party , or you’ve been trying to get some work done but you find that you just wasted the last hour on the internet, or you’re working out in the gym but you haven’t been making much of an effort, the moment you notice this ghost of mediocrity hovering over the present, you can fully exercise it just by beginning again, and then fully commit by relinquishing the past.

There’s no real reason why the next ten minutes in the gym can’t be the best you had in years.  There’s no real reason that you can’t put this conversation, that’s almost over, on a new footing by saying something that is truly useful. 

So, the practice is to stop telling ourselves a story about what has been happening and to fully connect with the experience in this moment.

Notice this present thought, this fear, this judgement, this doubt, this desire to elsewhere, as an appearance in consciousness, and then, just begin again.

 

More to come…..

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