Initially, curiosity masks rough terrain. A few minutes into the trip, the mind begins to drift. That’s the beginning of the roughs. As your curiosity and mental resolve wane, pain crawls up from the ankle bones, and knees, and spreads to the hips and lower back. There are no visible signs of what you are looking for: peace of mind.
Time stretches in meditation. Pain lingers. The more you think of troubles the longer the struggle becomes.
Perhaps you are looking for the wrong thing to begin with. Struggling for the peace of mind? What an irony! Struggle cannot bring peace. Peace is a state of non-struggling.
To find peace, stop struggling.
To stop struggling, allow yourself to trust your body. The body is a vehicle that will carry your mind (passenger) to where peace (destination) is. Once you trust your body, you can relax and experience the ride (meditation).
Just as we take a survival kit with essential items on a wilderness hike, we should each have our own meditation survival kit to ease our journey through our mind. Here is what I pack in my meditation survival kit:
#1: Good posture. Stable posture lessens your struggle. It provides a firm base for your spine to support the body structure, like a tree with strong roots and trunk. In that physical framework, the muscles and organs can rest, distracting you less from your mission: find peace of mind.
#2: Good sight. Stop looking for peace. It’s not on the road. It is near the end. All you need to do is to walk the road, minding the rocks and holes and twists. See what enters your mind. Some thoughts will try to derail you. Some will hurt you. Some will negate everything you do. Be mindful of all of them, but don’t pay particular attention to them. Just be mindful. Your ultimate sight is on the peace of mind, not the pebbles on the road.
#3: Good listening. Listen to ambient sounds. Listen to your breath. Breathe silently. Listen to the silence. Listen to your belly moving air in and out of the body. Listen to your chest expanding and contracting the lungs. Listen to your ear that listens. Now, can you see what you hear?
#4: Rhythmic breath: When you find yourself in trouble, pay attention immediately to your breath. Simplify your thoughts to only in-breath and out-breath. Nothing else. The simple repetitive pattern of in- and out-breath brings your awareness back to you and soothes you. In-breath keeps the body alert. Out-breath relaxes. As your awareness returns to normal, continue your journey.
#5: Attention shift: Good posture, sight, and listening are tools to keep your mind occupied. They help you contain your mind in your body. Now, you have an expedition team well organized. From this point on, shift your attention to the destination. One tricky problem here is that if you look for it, it’s hard to find. So be mindful of your destination–peace of mind–but keep it in your awareness like something you barely care about. Pretend you are not interested, but be mindful of it. Watching a fish swimming in a pond is peace. Catching it breaks the peace. So, watch from a distance.
Finally, to walk out of the wilderness of meditation successfully, be mindful that you take nothing out of the expedition but your experience itself.