Stillness of Mind

Due to a bad cold, I just went about a week without my daily 30-minute meditation practice. It’s hard enough to breathe steadily with a clear nasal passage, let alone a fully-obstructed one. I returned to the Zendo today and did my usual 30 minutes. Returning to meditation is never that difficult, it just requires a reinvigoration of the habit. I find that time passes after a week of no meditating in the same way it does if I practice every day. But the subtle impact daily practice has on my mind is far more noticeable.

When you meditate, you let all of your thoughts come and go. You do your best not to let a single thought overstay its welcome, but sometimes you fail. Then you rise above this failure and continue on. Done for X amount of minutes on a daily basis, this practice reminds you to let go of the thoughts that hold you back in daily life. These thoughts are often thoughts you wouldn’t think hold you back— goals, ideals, etc— but which still keep you in a world of delusion. Meditation helps you control delusion, anger and other difficult states. It also gives you the mental strength to work through your shortcomings rather than indulging in them or denying them outright.

This all comes from a deep stillness of mind within. In practicing the art of stillness each day, you create a template for your mind to follow when you aren’t watching it so closely. Keeping yourself in check is most important when you’re not thinking about it. Mindfulness helps prevent bad decisions that snowball into endless misery.

Sometimes I want to stop meditating mid-session and then I repeat to myself, “This is the most vital thing I can do with my time.” I recognize that meditation can be so difficult precisely at the moments in which it is most important. We need inner-encouragement the most not when we’re high and mighty but instead when we feel we want to give up. Ironically, this is when it’s most difficult to find. Meditative stillness is the atmosphere from which this courage arises.

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