Boredom, booorrredom, a dry, soulless state of mind, that can feel like drudge to be in and as though it is taking us an age to get ourselves out of.
Boredom can be experienced in our meditation as well as our daily lives. Being able to work with boredom, to have it as an ally as opposed to an enemy, makes it less of an obstacle in our lives and an emotional state that we fear less.
I think that for most people, when they think of meditation they visualize someone sitting quietly, maybe with their eyes closed, engaging in some sort inner process. Nothing external going on there.
However, our minds are not influenced solely by what happens while we are meditating. Silly and as obvious as this might sound, our mind follows us into all aspects of our lives. Habits are built on the meditation cushion and off it.
Meditation is a tool for training the mind. As I was taught meditation, it is a tool for training the mind to develop qualities such as patience, love, generosity, joy, contentment, and compassion. If while we are off the meditation cushion we are putting ourselves in situations where we, for example, tend to get angry, then we are in essence training ourselves in anger. The more that you focus on patience, the more patient you will become. The more that you focus on anger, the more that you will tend to anger. The mind simply goes to that place that it is familiar with.
This is where Boundaries come into play. This is about controlling, as best we can, what we expose ourselves to in our lives. If the news makes you angry, control the news that you consume. If trawling shopping sites on the internet gives you a sense of lack, stay away from them.
In this episode, I look at boundaries that we can create in our lives and relate it to the meditation on wanting happiness and not wanting suffering that we looked in the last episode.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama frequently utters the phrase that all sentient beings wish to be happy and be free from suffering. His Holiness can offer deep philosophical lectures on the finer points of Buddhist philosophy, but will then distill his message into these few words.
I find that this message can come across as deceptively simple. Almost a casual throw off before moving onto something “more” profound.
However, I went through a phase when I was struggling with a colleague at work. Unsure where to turn to, I reached out to this phrase. I reflected how I wish for happiness and not to suffer, fleshing out for myself what this meant, and then brought the colleague to mind and started working with the same logic. It was challenging at first, but like making a stone smooth by constantly rubbing it, my view towards them shifted. Did I agree with everything that they said? No, but I slowly started to see the basis of who they were as no different to myself. I saw them as a human being making their way through life and it for me it eased our relationship and interaction.
I have since used this meditation as the basis for meditations on compassion, and as a way to see and experience the humanness in those around me. It is a gradual process and one that constantly brings up challenges to my world view, but I find it a process that is fruitful and rewarding.
Resistance can occur in our wish, our intention to meditate. Busyness occurs in our daily work - home or work - and thoughts flash through our mind trying to fix the problems. We feel pulled to be working on the problem and not to be on our cushion.
Curiosity about the nature of those thoughts, feelings and emotions - what they look like close up in our mind and body - can be a stepping stone in starting to relinquish their pull.
This episode has taken a few weeks to make an appearance. The short version of “why” has been because my introverted and highly sensitive self has been managing a lot of noise in my life. The mind has felt tired, exhausted and at times it has been difficult just to jump into a new activity. This has not meant that my personal meditation practice has stopped, but it has seen me take some time out for myself to recharge if I knew that another activity was on the horizon.
In this episode I explore how meditation can be used to rest a tired mind, whether one identifies as introverted and/or highly sensitive or not.
Meditation is easy, or easier to do when I am feeling confident and inspired. Inspired because of the results that I am experiencing in my practice, and so building confidence to carry on. Then there are times when my practice is more of a struggle. I perhaps hit an arid phase. I am just showing up, but it is hard to feel motivated. In those times, what can help motivate me to keep going?
In this episode I look at how we can develop faith and confidence in the source of our meditation instruction, as well as faith and confidence in our ability to meditate, and how these help us through the times when we might be questioning our ability to build our practice.
…in fact, meditation is not even a race. It is a practice…of a lifetime.
I find in our world of instant results - on/off switches, email, phone calls, texts, etc, one can fall into the trap of expecting quick results from meditation. Or I can start comparing myself with others, even if the comparison is heavily doctored by my misperceptions - how much I think that they practice, where I might perceive that their practice is at.
Stop. Step back. Adopt another perspective. We are not racing each other to a finishing line, rather I am showing up each day to meditate and do my best in that moment and in the headspace that I am in.
A slight delay of a couple of days to get this podcast recorded brought some emotions up in me, and there is nothing like an emotional trigger to give me material for an episode.
Life can throw us a curve ball at any time. Sometimes I handle these situations well, other times not so well. If we stumble, meditation can offer us a way for looking at our emotions, getting to know them better and starting to understand what triggered us to get upset.
Last week I introduced the practice of tonglen as a way for managing pain. As I mentioned at the time, this is just one application of tonglen.
In this episode I explore how tonglen can help us to build connection with others, and with that to increase our awareness of how we are not alone in the trials that we might be going through. While this is not looking to negate any difficulties that we have in our own lives, it can help us to lessen the mental load that we are carrying, and at the same time open our heart to the struggles of others in the world.
This week’s episode comes out of my current experience. I am in physical pain due to muscular spasms in my lower back. I have sought some medical advice1, and I am getting better. However, I decided to record an episode looking at one way that meditation can help us when we are in pain or discomfort.
There are many meditation techniques that can be used for coping with pain, but this episode looks at the practice of tonglen, Tibetan for ‘giving and taking’. What I cover here just touches the tip of the iceberg of the practice, but hopefully this will give you a taste of what is on offer. In later episodes of the podcast, I hope to explore tonglen further.
In the meditation practice that I offer, I regularly give the instruction that if you are disturbed by noise, by stories, planning, thoughts in your head, to note the disturbance with “no judgement,” and return to the breath.
It is easy for me to judge myself. I put expectations on myself, how I expect myself to be. How I expect myself to show up in the world and on the meditation cushion. Acceptance is about me recognizing that I am human. That I have struggles and that that is OK - no judgement.
On the meditation cushion it is “no judgement.” With time that starts to seep into and impact our daily lives - I make a mistake and I accept that, “no judgement.” But there is rush to get there. For now let’s deal with our mind in the safety and privacy of our meditation practice.
It is very easy for meditation to become another thing that we are fitting into our daily, busy lives. We still engage in it sincerely with interest, and in time feel the benefits of our practice.
However, there is a simple action that I believe will help to take your experience of meditation that little bit deeper. It was something that I was taught when I started my meditation practice, and I still continue it today. This is the simple act of taking a few moments before and after your practice to reflect on why you are choosing to spend a part of your day in meditation. I call it Intention and I talk about it in this episode.
In this episode I speak about the benefit of having an overarching goal, a reason, an intention that brings you to your meditation cushion - Goal. At the same time I offer a word of caution of the expectations that we might bring to our individual meditation sessions - No Goal.
So there is a dance happening. On the one hand we have a reason to want to build and develop our meditation practice. On the other, how can we hold our intentions lightly, free of expectations? I explore this balance in this episode.
When do we meditate? How long for and what time of the day? And how about where? Do we just sit wherever we find ourselves, or do we have a place put aside for our meditation practice?
In this episode, I explore these questions, offering some perspectives to help you find what works for you.
In a podcast on the subject of meditation, it feels prudent to ask the question, “What is meditation?” I have covered this in earlier episodes, but I believe that it is good to revisit these subjects to become familiar with them. And göm, the Tibetan word for meditation which means “to familiarize,” is what I explore in this episode.
Meditation is a step by step process, session by session, breath by breath. Meditation is about continuity, each session building on your previous work, even at times when it feels as though nothing much is happening!
In this episode I discuss this step by step path of meditation by using the analogy of a recent experience that I had repairing my air conditioning unit. Please join me for today’s meditation session as we take another step along with our practice.
After just over three years, I am relaunching the Behind The Thoughts podcast. The last episode of podcast was published in September 2017…and then nothing, for no particular reason! 🤷🏼♂️
So today I am happy to be publishing Episode 41, with the current aim of posting an episode a week. Today’s episode contains a welcome back, a short introduction to meditation, a meditation session, and some closing words. I look forward to sitting with you over the coming weeks.
Taking care of the foundations of our meditation helps to build a solid base for developing our practice. With reaching the 40th episode I review some of the ideas that I covered in the early episodes and that underpin our meditation practice.
Sitting with difficult emotions or pain from, for example, a headache can be challenge. However, it is a challenge that is eased by the motivation, the reason that you enter into the meditation.
After a break in the podcast which has seen me moving house, I return to a subject that I visit from time to time because I believe that it is important. It’s that of keeping the continuity of one’s practice going, regardless of what is happening in your life.
This episode revisits the subject of goals in our meditation, diving deeper into the subject. I discuss how goals can not only be helpful in giving us direction, but also a hindrance if we bring the wrong expectations with those goals.
Lying on a doctor’s examination table, waiting for what seemed like an age for the nurse practitioner, made me (eventually) catch my mind as it busied itself with the day ahead. Meditation helped to focus, quieten and touch into the nature of the mind beyond the chatter.
Adding another tool to our meditation belt, I introduce Analytical Meditation in this podcast. Paired with the focus that we are developing by watching the breath, it further helps us grow our mind.
In this episode we delve deeper into the practice of visualization, exploring how it is more than about “seeing.” The podcast also includes a guided visualization meditation.