Meditation can be frustrating for newbies. Often that frustration stems from expecting to quietly and peacefully meditate for an hour at one’s first sitting – it’s an unrealistic expectation. When we teach others a new skill, we offer compassion and patience. We encourage the idea that it takes time to master a new skill, and that with practice that new skill will grow and develop. Why is it we can offer that compassion and patience to others and not extend it to ourselves? Meditation doesn’t have to be frustrating if you begin it with a clear expectation that it will take time and practice to master it, and that the process of practicing is, in and of itself, progress. In fact, the process itself is what I believe meditation is all about. To me meditation isn’t about sitting in peace for an hour like a Buddha. It’s about the process of gently redirecting your mind back to the simple feel of the breath in your nostrils, each and every time your mind wanders off on its own path. To me, meditation is about the gentle reminder to try again. It’s not about getting it right – it’s about expecting and compassionately managing the “getting it wrong.”
Today it occurs to me that the same could be said of improving one’s health or changing any behaviors or habits. Weight loss would be a good example. When I set an expectation that I’ll start eating healthfully and never err, I doom myself to failure. This world is full of donuts and distractions. At the times in my life I’ve been successful with losing some weight, it’s been because I was forgiving of my own mistakes and wandering focus. Maybe I could view losing weight (or any other behavioral change) in the same way I view meditation – maybe it’s about the process of gently redirecting myself back onto the more desirable path, each and every time I wander off. Maybe it’s not about getting it right, but about managing the “getting it wrong” enough times for the good and healthy habits to outweigh the bad ones. Beginning again and again until habits are revised and small results are achieved. And recognizing the rewards during the journey rather than awaiting the final destination.