For many people the attitude towards meditation is one of always trying to change something.
Trying to attain a particular state or recreate some kind of blissful experience remembered from the past, or hoping to reach a certain state by practising.
When we practice meditation with an idea of having to do or achieve something it can become unnecessary hard work.
We start to believe that if I’m in a bad mood I should be able to get rid of it! Or if the mind is scattered I should be able easily establish one-pointed concentration to overcome this problem.
Through these ideas we try to control everything. This impossible idealism can only lead to repeated failure.
The thought of going off to a cave becomes very attractive because there you have more control.
You don’t need to talk to people or get caught up in confusing sensory distraction. As you settle into solitude, you experience a level of tranquillity through lack of sensory stimulation.
However, this tranquillity and concentration can be easily disturbed by the simplest sound.
Alternatively, the other extreme is to think you should not go off to the cave and practice meditation. Just be natural and let everything happen. But the problem here is you don’t know what natural is yet.
The word meditation covers many mental experiences. From a Buddhist perspective it means to see things as they are. It is a state of awareness.
It isn’t complicated or difficult or something that takes years to achieve.
It is so easy that you don’t even notice it.
When you are thinking in terms of have to practice meditation, you are conceiving it as something you have to attain.
You may be thinking in terms of a bunch of yogis sitting on top of a remote mountain meditating. No doubt the image of Buddha promotes that sense of remoteness or isolation.
In developing an attitude towards formal practice or daily life practice there is sometimes a tendency to separate the two.
We might think formal practice as a very controlled retreat situation where we all live a set routine. When we leave that retreat setting everything else becomes our daily life meditation.
But the reality is we can’t live in that controlled setting as an ongoing experience.
The real challenge is to develop awareness and attention in the flow of life.
This doesn’t diminish the value of going to a retreat. The point is to look at meditation as an open awareness throughout our daily life to whatever is happening.
There is a sense of allowing things just be. We are not trying to change anything. We become the observer of the emotional and mental conditions in the present moment.
Right now my mood is this! Right now my I feel this!
Just be aware whether you are confused, indifferent, happy, sad, uncertain or whatever.
Be that which allows things to be what they are. No more, no less!