Meditation, just like any other practice, has a natural tendency to ebb and flow.
One of my teachers says that life is a process of forgetting and remembering again. This is how I think about my meditation practice.
If my mind wanders, I gently bring it back again. My thoughts are a reflection of forgetting about the present, and then I notice that I have wandered off from my breath. And I slowly, gracefully remember bring it back again.
Many people get turned off my meditation because they "just cant focus their mind" and get too distracted or "antsy" on their meditation pillow. This is completely understandable. Imagine a child learning how to ride a bike. The child gets on the bike and starts to peddle, all things are going well so far they are cruising a long, one pedal after another - until BAM. The child loses balance and falls over. Should the child give up forever, and claim "oh well, I guess riding bikes just isn't my thing after all"? Meditation is similar, each breath like a push on a bike pedal. And when we fall, or lose focus, we get right back up and start pedaling again until we are cruising.
Cruising is being in the "flow". I call it "experiencing spaciousness". This is the place where there is no body, no thoughts and no "do-ing" - just "be-ing". There is a a saying in the Daoist tradition that is called "wu-wei" which means "effortless effort". This is similar to meditation, because we are giving effort (sitting with a straight spine, taking deep breathes, focusing our mind on the sensation of our breath/body) but the experience is effortless. We cannot simply try to have an experience, we just have an experience. The effortlessness comes from letting go of attachment to outcome.
Let go of your desire to achieve anything when you are meditating.
The experience will happen to you naturally with a little time and patience. Think back on a time that you laughed really really hard at something. Were you trying to laugh that hard, or did it just happen? This is meditation. You will be sitting there, focusing, breathing, waiting, and then aha! There it is - that blissful feeling of spacious awareness.
The thing is, some days it never feels like "cruising", and that's okay too. Some days, I will sit down on my meditation pillow and I will NOT feel like meditation. I will NOT like where my head is at - which is all over the place. That is the mind's job - to think. And think and think and think. We cannot blame our minds for doing its job - giving us thoughts of the past and future and feeding into our patterns of distraction and urgency.
"Oh I forgot to change the laundry... aw isn't so-and-so's baby so darling yesterday at the picnic...shoot did I invite Aunt Pat to easter? ... No, I shouldn't have said that yesterday"
We aren't in charge of our first thought, but we are in charge of our second thought
So as the thought arises, allow it to be like falling off a bike as a kid. Dust yourself off, don't shame yourself for falling, get back on and keep pedaling. The thoughts will come - there will be rocks and bumps in the road, stop and yield signs, and all sorts of cars and birds and shouting people to distract you from your cruise. Thats normal. Actually, that is great!
"I meditate not to get good at meditating, but to get good at life!" - Christine Hassler
As things and distractions in our day-to-day life arise - as they do -we are able to handle them with more grace and ease.
Remember: meditation, just like life, is a process of forgetting and remembering. So when we fall off the metaphorical meditation bike, we then have the power to
a) forgive (forget)
b) start again (remember)
From my meditation pillow to yours,