Mindfulness and meditation practices offer us many benefits. One that I’ve recently discovered is the ability to create a time each day that I’m free from expectations or struggling. I’ll explain, but first I have to address the struggle. It is that tension between what is and what is not. What I want and what I have. I want something to be one way but then life decides it is going to be another way. It is the struggle between competing demands, when there are so many things to do all at once.
An everyday struggle scenario
Here’s an example – It’s a Monday morning. I’m thinking about the fun I had over the weekend, but dang I didn’t get all of the chores done. As I make coffee I’m thinking about all of these things, and there’s even more going on in the background of my mind.
I should have done my laundry. Later tonight I have to give my cat some medicine and I really don’t like doing that (neither does she . . . ). I have a full day of work, and lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by some of the changes. How is my wife doing with things? Does she need something from me? When are we going to find a house with an actual home office? I really miss my family, and I wish I could see my niece and nephew more often. I wish I felt more calm. I wish I was feeling more balanced right now. I’m stressed. Am I a little depressed?
And then there is the sudden realization that I’m late for work.
That is just one version of the struggle. In different forms it happens all of the time.
So here’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been carving out 10 minutes each morning to sit down on a pillow in the middle of the living room. I open my phone and start a guided meditation. I’m learning to open up my attention and awareness to everything that is there. I’m learning to observe what shows up – the physical sensations, emotions, sounds in my environment, the thoughts that come and go. Meditation is teaching me that I can find respite from the struggle by opening up to whatever is there. I’m not making the things go away, but I’m changing how I relate to what shows up. For 10 minutes each morning I don’t have to do anything. With practice I’m learning to sit there and observe what is in my consciousness.
The cure for struggling is not found in a magical combination of self-help strategies, optimized planners, or a specialized diet. What I’m learning is that meditation turns the way I relate to the struggle around 180 degrees. Instead of trying to not feel a certain way I invite the feelings in. Instead of trying to make my body feel a certain way I invite my body to be just as it is. I’m learning to be curious, to observe, and to extend compassion to whatever shows up. After I’m done I still have struggles during the day. The next morning I get to take 10 more minutes to change my relationship with the struggles. Rather than playing a constant tug-of-war with what I do and dont want I’m learning I can just drop the rope. It may seem small, but 10 minutes of struggle free time is making a world of difference.
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