Only the shallow know themselves.

-- Oscar Wilde

3.The Challenges of Meditation

So, sitting in your chair or on your couch (or on the floor), merely close your eyes and watch your own mind while breathing normally. At first the time will seem to pass very slowly and then, very quickly all sorts of thoughts will intrude, preventing you from watching the mind. You will realize this at some point and as soon as you do, begin watching the mind again. But then, it will become increasingly frustrating as, no matter what you do, your ego will wave its arms and say “look over here!” And you will follow it like a puppy after its master.

You may, however, have some success and find that seemingly long periods of time go by in which you are not distracted by mental chatter. Of course, at that point you might feel quite happy that you’ve been able to do so. You will think about how well you’re doing and how easy it all actually is and how maybe you can teach this to other people and you wonder how long you can go without thinking and…and…soon you realize that you’re thinking instead of watching and you realize that your ego is back on stage, and you will be frustrated in your efforts once more.

Of course, this is just one possibility. Some people take to meditation like dogs to Frisbees, but for the majority of us, the path is difficult. And there can be other difficulties associated with meditation than struggling to remain a witness. While many suffer from frustration and extreme boredom, others encounter floods of emotions so severe that they collapse in tears. Deep feelings and conflicts that had been repressed often bubble to the surface and with them, sorrow and fear. Of course, it is even more difficult to remain an impartial observer of your mind when you’re overwhelmed by your emotions.

Often it may seem to the beginner as if he or she is getting nowhere. They sit for a half an hour and nearly all of it was filled with pointless musings on television shows, secret crushes and shopping lists. But those who continue to practice despite the frustration will find that on average the mind begins to behave more and more as we wish it would. Longer and longer stretches arise which are full of calming silence and tinged with gentle awareness of tiny details.

Next: The benefits of meditation

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