Over the course of seven years, I went on a retreat three times a year. Two of the retreats were for four days and one was for 10 days every June.
Even though before every retreat I was always nervous and resistant, I knew that I would benefit from it. It was on the retreats where I got clarity about what I really wanted in my life and where I reconnected with the strength I needed to make inner and outer changes.
My teacher spoke about the importance of being fully present with beginnings, middles and endings.
The first night we arrived at the retreat, all of us bustling with nervousness and anticipation, trying to let go of the tension from the rush hour traffic, he reminded us to be present with arriving.
Halfway through the retreat, when it’s common to start missing life down the mountain, like hump-day during the workweek, he reminded us to be present with middles.
On the last day of the retreat, we would still have our morning three-hour meditation sit. After, we would meet together as a group and break our silence for the first time to share our experiences.
Typically, I started leaving the mountain mentally as I began packing the previous night. I couldn’t wait to sleep in my own bed, catch up with friends and family and get back to the gym after all that sitting. In my last hours of meditation, I had to remind myself to be more present with endings.
This teaching was to become aware of and honor the present, to meet your beginnings, middles and endings, fully and completely. Whether that’s in longer scope experiences or even as simple as starting and completing a daily chore or work project.
Of course, while meditating quietly, my mind still found ways to mess with me: The irritations of the itch at the tip of my nose that had to be scratched, the fly that had to be shooed, the cramp in my knee that had to be adjusted, the crick in my back.
I learned that if I didn’t move, allowing whatever minor or major pesky interference to pass, I could reach that blissful space of total absorption relatively fast, where discomfort no longer existed.
It seemed impossible when I first started. But the pay off was grand and generating sustained focus was always worth it.
The hardest times were when I returned to everyday life without the serenity and protective atmosphere of the retreat and the mountain.
Distraction and my emotional reactions could get the best of me. After realizing the deep, loving concentration I was truly capable of, real-life moments of interference could be very painful.
As soon as we become aware of the loss of our attention, our opportunity is to simply, kindly and gently return our focus.
Without shaming, wronging, or scolding ourselves. Without guilt or regret. Without feeling sorry or allowing The Judge tell us it’s too hard or “I can’t.”
When we catch ourselves drifting away from the present moment, all we need to say is, Oops! There I went! No problem. I’m just going to go back.
If we lose our target, it’s not a big deal. It’s not an issue that needs analysis. It says nothing about who we are and our capabilities.
It doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough; it doesn’t mean that we’re wrong or not a success.
When you find yourself falling off focus, just gently, kindly, lovingly, course correct.
The more times we keep compassionately coming back, the more we create relaxed, sustainable, determined attention. The more attention we accumulate, the easier it is to stay present.
Obviously, this isn’t only about meditation practice. One of meditation’s purposes is to help us stay on track. We can apply this to every day life as we learn to work with life’s interference.
Author Bio – Lynn Newman is a creativity expert with a Masters in Counseling Psychology, writer, painter, and game creator (like The Game of You & The Game of Insight – An Interactive Way To Know Yourself, Create The Life You Want). She’s big into unleashing the truest, free-est parts of you, to experience more joy, purpose, and passion in life. Visit her at LynnNewman.com, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.