As is recommended, I had found a time and place for the meditation where I wouldn’t be interrupted or distracted by external sources. I was at home, alone, and there were no other sounds, except for the guided meditation CD. As the taped voice began the Breath, Body, Sounds and Thoughts meditation I focused on maintaining the awareness of a compassionate and inquisitive labeler, non-judgmentally noticing what was present. To help keep this attitude, I would often think to myself, “Oh, blank is happening, how interesting.”
The breath and body segments of the meditation were fairly uneventful. As usual, my mind wandered all over the place. I would notice the wandering sooner or later and bring attention back to the tangible sensations of breath or the body. Things changed when I got to awareness of sounds. With each new instruction I felt myself getting more and more frustrated.
“Noting if sound is continuous or discrete”
“I can’t hear anything.”
“Loud or soft”
“I still don’t hear anything! There is no sound, loud or soft.”
“Noting the spaces between sounds,”
“The only sound is your voice. Everything else is space, empty!”
“And if there are no sounds simply noting that.”
“Okay, fine. I’ll just try to listen nothing… hmmm, maybe it’s possible to be aware of nothing?”
“Hearing as it is in this moment. The ears open and receptive.”
“Okay, COME ON! It’s stupid enough to ask me to listen to nothing, but now you’re interrupting me every 10 seconds? That really isn’t helping! What’s the point of a sound meditation that’s more instruction than silence?”
This continued for the rest of the awareness of sound meditation. I was angry, and kept on thinking, “this is so stupid.” When I made it to the awareness of thought section of the meditation, I managed to bring back that curious and compassionate awareness to my own thoughts.
“This is stupid!”
“Oh, what’s this? I’m thinking that this meditation is stupid? That’s interesting, why is it stupid?”
“Because it’s too hard, I can’t do it if she’s always talking!”
“So I think it’s stupid because it isn’t easy. Don’t you think that’s interesting angry-self?
“It’s not interesting. I’m mad, damnit.”
“But isn’t it interesting how I called something stupid because it was hard?”
I had discovered that the source of my anger was the difficulty of the meditation; and so, my anger fizzled. It simply seemed too petty to be angry only because something wasn’t easy. In my newly calm state I remembered that there is no one way that meditation is supposed to go. Being mindful is simply being aware in the present moment – pleasant or unpleasant – and seeing what comes and goes.
It’s interesting to see how my automatic reaction to a difficult or unpleasant situation was to label it as stupid or to see it as impossible. If I had given up while I was angry, I would probably think I had been justified in doing so. I would be unaware that I could have completed the meditation but chose not to.
I’m happy that I stayed with the difficulty of the meditation and was able to see my thoughts for what they were. Now I find myself worried by a new thought: how many times in the past have I characterized something unpleasant as impossible?