Saturday, February 27, 2010

Acceptance Before Meditating

The flip side of suspending judgment involves learning to accept things just the way they are. You don’t necessarily have to like what you see, and you’re welcome to change it — but first you need to experience it fully and clearly, without the overlays of judgment and denial. For example, you may have lots of anger bubbling up, but you may believe that this particular emotion is bad or even evil, so you refuse to acknowledge it. In meditation, you have an opportunity to observe the anger just as it is —recurrent angry thoughts, waves of anger in the belly — without trying to change or get rid of it. (For more on meditating with challenging emotions and mind-states, see Chapter 11.) The more you welcome the full range of your experiences in this way, the more space you create inside yourself to contain them — and the more you defuse those old familiar conflicts between different parts of yourself.

Suspending judgment

If you’re like most people, you’re constantly judging your experience as good, bad, or indifferent and reacting accordingly:
  • “Ooh, I like that. I’m going to try to get more of it.”
  • “I hate that. I’m going to avoid it at all costs.”
  • “That doesn’t do anything for me. I’m not going to pay any attention to it.”
When you meditate, you begin to notice the steady stream of judgments and how they dominate your mind and distort your experience. Instead of indulging this habitual pattern, you can practice witnessing your experience impartially, without judgment. When judgments arise, which they undoubtedly will, you can just be aware of them, while avoiding the temptation to judge them as well. Gradually, the habit of judging will loosen its grip on your mind.

Cat-and-mouse meditation

To learn how to meditate with effortless effort, combining just the right balance of alertness and relaxation, spend some time watching cats. Although they seem so settled and self-contained, cats are acutely aware of what’s going on around them. If they hear the chirp of a bird or see a mouse scurrying across the floor, they can leap up in a heartbeat and pursue their prey at full speed.
As soon as their prey has escaped, however, cats don’t appear to become attached to the memory of what might have been. Instead, they settle down once again and resume their meditation. You would never associate cats with making an effort — they’re simply being themselves wholeheartedly, engrossed in the present moment, open to whatever occurs. Apply this same quality of energy and earnestness to your meditation, and you’ll get the knack in no time.