Andy is off with his girlfriend in Siberia, we always try to send him somewhere really inhospitable at least once a year. So Maria and I are blog sitting. Andy said we could write anything we wanted, which feels exciting, I feel like my parents have gone away and I am about to have a house party. Sadly Andy wouldn't let me tell you any of his old stories from his younger years, so the party might be a bit lame.
The posts over the next 10 days might lack some of Andy’s wisdom, but Maria and I will do our best to give you an honest account of what it's like to be a beginner in meditation. I have only been practicing for about 2 years so I am really fresh to this and in no way an expert, but I do know what its like to be a beginner and what its like to struggle.
I have never been on long retreats or had formal training. I have always had to fit my practice around setting up a business, having a relationship, meeting friends, exercising and all the other demands that living in a city brings. So I have definitely had to make meditation work around my life. Which I have found challenging at times, but because I have seen some of the benefits that a daily practice can bring, it is now one of the most important parts of my day. I know a lot of people suffer with discipline, but to be honest I have never struggled with that. I think I am wired in a way that makes me want to achieve, which is great for making sure you do your practice not so great for developing a calm mind. Like the animation "effort" explains, the harder you try the further you get away from the state you are trying to achieve. I find it incredible how long it has taken me to grasp this, I still catch myself doing it every so often and that's after 2 years of daily practice and 6 events and countless numbers of presentations where Andy has told me that approach is futile. I guess the mind can take a long time to unlearn old patterns of behaviour!
I also still find it really hard to sit with uncomfortable feelings or thoughts, it is amazing how many strategies I will come up with to try and get away from what is actually happening. The stories I come up with in my head are unbelievable at times, but the beauty of learning to meditate is I get a chance to see them much earlier. My mind still comes up with them, but I have the chance to either watch them passively or get involved with them and try and change them somehow or feed them and make them last for ages. The skill of watching the thoughts passively is an ongoing process and one I am learning every day- I guess that's why they call it practice. It's an ongoing thing that you never stop learning. I suppose that's why we feel so passionate about the Headspace project, it's an organic, living thing that hopefully people can be involved with for a long time. Andy tells me a lot that he still feels like a beginner, which is comforting in that it motivates me to keep persevering with the techniques and I guess that is my biggest piece of advice: you have to stick with it. The more you practice, the more familiar you become with the feeling that meditation can bring and the more you can start to integrate it into your life. So whether your practice brings you tears, joy, frustration, anger or just bores you rigid, which my practice does on a regular basis, stick with it.