On one of the meditation courses I did, we sat for fourteen hours a day. During that time, there was one three-hour period when we were supposed to sit in the meditation hall on our meditation cushions without moving in any way. No scratching, no fidgeting, no itching, no twitching - no moving of any sort.

Silence was also required, and most of us could do that, unless lunch had included lots of fiber.

We were told to attend to our breathing and do nothing else, to practice meditation mindfulness only.

During one of our sessions, I could tell that a man in front of me was fidgeting every so often. I'm not sure why, but at some point, it occurred to me to open my eyes to see what was going on. Just as I did, I saw our teacher, a Burmese grandmother in her seventies who was usually a quiet, loving and kind woman, point to him and scream as loud as she could, "GET OUT! NOW!"

I was a little shocked by this, but since we had all pledged in a noble silence vow not to speak during the entire retreat, I wasn't able to ask this gentleman about what happened until five days later.

His answer may have been the most important lesson I ever learned about the meditation mind.

Before I go into this, though, I should back up and tell you something about my previous ten years of meditation. I was always very diligent in my practice. Quite strict, though not to the point of being militaristic. But I tried hard to do everything right. There was a lot of "working to accept what is" when "what is" was painful or unpleasant. I attempted to stay poised when everything inside seemed tumultuous (and sometimes everything outside of me, too).

Actually, when things in my life were especially difficult or challenging, I was certain that more meditation was the cure that would help me "fix" my life.

Now, knowing all of that, you’ll get a better sense of why the story the gentleman told me about what happened that day was so life-changing and radical for me.

After he left the meditation hall, feeling some confusion and shock, our teacher went to him and said that he was working way too hard, tensing his body and his face and working himself into contortions.

She explained, "It’s not possible to fight your way to being peaceful. Equanimity cannot be forced. However, you can notice when you already have just a tiny bit of calm somewhere, and then you can encourage that very gently. So why don't you go take a nap, go for a walk, smoke a cigarette or get something to eat. After you’ve relaxed a little, then come back to the meditation hall… as a friend to yourself. Then do your practice."

After hearing that story and taking this advice to heart, I was able to bring new freshness, excitement and aliveness to my practice of meditation.

Later, it also helped me realize that there was no need to take a break from day-to-day life in order to be able to meditate. There is no need to have a cigarette or a drink or to walk away and escape. It is completely possible to find calm moments right in the middle of times that seem to be the most stress you've ever had.

When you learn how to gently become friends with the calmness that already exists, meditation becomes an already integrated part of your daily life. Then there is no need for a separate practice time for meditation. Whatever happens during your day becomes your meditation practice, and then we no longer call it practice. It's just life.

Author's Bio: 

Steven Sashen began meditation when he was eight years old, was one of the first biofeedback pioneers, and researched cognition and perception at Duke University. In addition to a successful career as an entrepreneur and entertainer, Steven has taught transformational techniques around the world and developed the Instant Advanced Meditation Course, which Dr. Gay Hendricks calls, "Perhaps the fastest and easiest way to relax, expand awareness, and find deep inner-peace."

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