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But the same can be said about beginning anything new, whether it’s going to the gym, starting a job, or beginning a diet. The first few months are always difficult. It’s hard to learn all the skills you need to master a job; it’s hard to motivate yourself to exercise; and it’s hard to eat healthfully every day. But after a while the difficulties subside, you start to feel a sense of pleasure or accomplishment, and your entire sense of self begins to change.

Meditation works the same way. For the first few days you might feel very good, but after a week or so, practice becomes a trial. You can’t find the time, sitting is uncomfortable, you can’t focus, or you just get tired. You hit a wall, as runners do when they try to add an extra half mile to their exercise. The body says, “I can’t,” while the mind says, “I should.” Neither voice is particularly pleasant; in fact, they’re both a bit demanding.

Buddhism is often referred to as the “middle way” because it offers a third option. If you just can’t focus on a sound or a candle flame for one second longer, then by all means stop. Otherwise, meditation becomes a chore. You’ll end up thinking, “Oh no, it’s 7:15. I have to sit down and cultivate awareness”. No one ever progresses that way. On the other hand, if you think you could go on for another minute or two, then stop. You may be surprised by what you learn. You might discover a particular thought or feeling behind your resistance that you didn’t want to acknowledge. Or you may simply find that you can actually rest your mind longer than you thought you could. That discovery alone can give you greater confidence in yourself.

But the best part of all is that no matter how long you practice, or what method you use, every technique of Buddhist meditation ultimately generates compassion. Whenever you look at your mind, you can’t help but recognize your similarity to those around you. When you see your own desire to be happy, you can’t avoid seeing the same desire in others. And when you look clearly at your own fear, anger, or aversion, you can’t help but see that everyone around you feels the same fear, anger, and aversion. This is wisdom, not in the sense of book learning, but in the awakening of the heart, the recognition of our connection to others, and the road to joy.

Reprinted from Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom, by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. © 2009 by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Published by Harmony Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

 


From the May 2009 issue of the Shambhala Sun.

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