Why You Can't Let Judgment Affect Your Meditation Practice

When I first learned about meditation, I felt it was something big and far reaching that I would not be good at. After taking some

trainings and practicing on my own, I soon understood that it wasn't so far beyond my reach; like learning anything new, you take it in stages.

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, we're introduced to the eight limbs of yoga, the practices that are intrinsic to being a yogi. Before we even get to an appreciation of meditation as yogis, we explore yama (ethical practices), niymama (spiritual practices), asana (yoga

postures), pranayama (life force), pratyahara (sense-withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (supreme consciousness). To meditate, we must have experienced — and be capable of remembering experiencing — all of these limbs. In short, we must learn concentration before we learn meditation.

Just the other day, I set myself up for meditation and noticed that I wasn't just trying to concentrate. It started off fine until my puppy sat on my mat. I could hear the air from the jacuzzi jets blasting, reminding me of the nice bath I just took. I found myself barely keeping my eyes closed.

I tried mantra repetition, focusing on the breath, then at one spectacular moment there was this bliss — tall spine, lightness and clarity. That fleeting moment was all I needed. The five-minute meditation was really a one-second meditation and 4 minutes and 59 seconds of trying to concentrate.

Meditation is hard because it's fleeting, and you won't know till you've tried it. And yet it's easy. It doesn't have to be some big elusive ordeal. You don't have to have anything special. You just need you and a moment.

Feel like you don't have five minutes (let alone 60) to meditate each day? Find one minute and give it a try. Sit in a chair, on the floor, or lie in bed — whatever position you choose, it's a start, which is all that's really important. Choose what's easy and will most likely encourage you to try it again. We all begin somewhere.

It's good to practice where there are few to no distractions if you can, but even if you plan for that, things will arise — your mind will make them arise! It's part of the practice and the withdrawal from external sensations to bring your concentration inward, to your breath, and use that concentration to maintain control over and emptiness within the mind. It's like any other muscle; the more you use it, the better it gets. Only your own judgment of the practice will prevent this natural growth.

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