Thursday, July 29, 2010

When Meditation Becomes a Struggle

I strive to meditate daily, at least for five minutes.  Ideally, I would be meditating for 15-30 minutes every day but something invariably causes my schedule to become irregular.  Often it's fatigue, pure and simple.  I will either begin to fall asleep during my practice, or I will feel too exhausted to even try.  These are always the days that my meditations are a shallow five minutes.  I still do it, but the experience is more akin to a breathing exercise.  There's nothing wrong with that, but I want to move beyond.  Compared to where I was when I started meditating seven or so years ago, I'm leaps and bounds better, so I'm not entirely unimpressed with myself.

The annoyance of fatigue can be controlled by mental discipline, to a certain extent.  Sure there are days full of activity and obligation - days when overwhelming fatigue is assured - but for the most part, one can make a schedule and stick to it fairly well.  This is something I'm working on now.  But what about those aggravations beyond control?

I seem to have caught something over the weekend.  I wake up with a sore throat and I spend the remainder of my day coughing and feeling somewhat hoarse.  Physical discomfort is very difficult for me to overlook when meditating, especially when they include involuntary reactions.  Just try to breath comfortably and remain still while coughing every few minutes!  Congestion is another annoyance difficult to overcome.  When an exercise depends so heavily on a relaxed breath, congestion is the worst.

I've often wondered about Buddhist monks who meditate frequently.  Do they ever feel ill?  Do they still meditate if they do?  Can they overcome their physical ailments through mental focus?  Has meditation increased their immunity to illness, or are most Buddhist monasteries dedicated to meditation situated in very healthful climates?

I recently attended a real, honest-to-goodness yoga class as opposed to my usual exposure to yoga on Wii Fit.  Rather than having to focus on my balance, I was instructed to focus on my breath and that that was the most important part.  It is easier said than done and, of course, balance is still significant, but by not having to fixate on where my center of balance was in a pixilated yellow circle, I was free to attempt turning to my breathing.  As I contorted myself into occasionally uncomfortable positions, I found myself starting to move away from my physical being.  I visually focused on knots in wood paneling or the texture of the ceiling while paying attention to the inhalations and exhalations.  There were some poses I would have liked to spend more time in because I felt I was achieving some subtle peace of mind through them.  

I'm seriously considering more yoga.  While coughing and congestion may always get the best of me, yoga could help me build greater discipline overall.  Who knows?  Maybe one day I'll be able to transcend my more corporeal annoyances.  If not, I'll just do a shallow, five minute breathing exercise.  It's better than nothing, right?

( For My LJ Friends: )

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