Why meditation might be the toughest thing you do today. And why it’s worth it.

Meditation, as it turns out, is training in emotional intelligence. …it’s not easy. It requires that one face unflinchingly the bodily ills and emotional pangs that are bound to arise when one locks oneself into the laboratory of the meditative posture. Yet such suffering softens the heart.  —Smith & Novak

So wait. Meditation might be unpleasant?

If you’re interested in trying meditation and hope it’s going to be a peaceful break in a busy day, it’s time we clear up some misunderstandings.  I know you are inundated with images of peaceful yogis sitting on lovely organic cotton mats, overlooking a tranquil lake that is reflecting the expansive sky. Their brows are unruffled, you’re sure they are experiencing the clearing away of thoughts, especially unpleasant ones, and are filled with transcendental bliss.

If we think this is what we’re going to get, we are often discouraged before we get through our first 20 minutes let alone 20 days.  So I’ll give you a more realistic, and I believe, heartening view.

I’ve seen what illusions of bliss and ecstasy do for pregnant women preparing for birth and know that we find our way to the awesome, beautiful life experiences by letting go of our expectations for things to be anything other than what they are.

It might not be a surprise to you that at times, this practice of being present, of practicing things like ‘letting go’ or ‘non-striving’ might take some effort.  Staying with experiences that we typically run away from, and to get to know them more thoroughly, might not be as easy for us as, say, turning on netflix, grabbing a bag of chips, or doing any number of habitual reactions that are already wired in us.

Giving up our busy ‘doing’ mode in favor of sitting and ‘doing nothing’ for 45 minutes a day? It might not always come easily.

Is it hard then?

Not exactly.  Mindfulness meditation involves a fairly simple instruction.  Pay attention, to the present moment, with kindness, curiosity, and other attitudes that allow true awareness to be available.   You notice when your mind wanders off, because it’s what minds do.  You notice when you grip against something, because it’s what minds and bodies do.  You notice when you start planning your to-do list, because it’s how our minds practice being in charge of the impermanent conditions of life.  You notice all sorts of things and this is why we have to give up the idea that we’ll just see the rosy stuff.

Because it’s what we do with the thorny bush that will give us an insight into finding true happiness and wellbeing.

To learn more about how Mindfulness meditation can build up your confidence and capacity to enjoy life’s joys more deeply and to face its difficulties with more skill and less overwhelm, we have several opportunities for you:

  • Join us for a Mindfulness Weekend Retreat, September 28-30, 2018. MORE INFO >
  • We offer a 8 week online Mindfulness Based Reduction course where you’ll learn about mindfulness in a supportive environment and can see for yourself how practicing to stay in the present moment unlocks greater freedom and possibilities. MORE INFO >


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Karen Laing is a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher with experience in trauma and caregiving. She's spent the last 25 years supporting families through major life transitions such as birth and postpartum care.

She founded Birthways over 20 years ago to support expectant families and provide training and support for birthworkers. She created WisdomWay as a means to continue supporting all caregivers with mindfulness-based training and certifications. She speaks nationwide on mindfulness, parenting, caregiving, and mental health.