Trying Too Hard

Whew….just a little less than two weeks to go…and we can kick politics to the curb (for the most part).  What I’m hoping for (and perhaps its a futile desire) is that the news outlets pull back on the political reporting.  Because honestly….I really don’t care anymore.  Much like the overhype for Halloween and Christmas…I’m ready for this shit to be stuffed back in a deep, dark hole for another four-plus years.


However, in the meantime – there’s a lot more stuff to pay attention to, and other areas to focus on.  One of them – for me – is meditation techniques.  When people think of this stuff, the first thing that typically comes to mind is the individual sitting cross-legged on the floor, both arms extended to the side, and softly chanting “ohm”.  For quite some time, this is precisely where my mind went.  I tried to meditate in that position – and wound up with sore knees and cramped legs….and never achieved a state of relaxation where I could work on meditations.  About eight years ago, a long-time friend suggested that I wasn’t able to find that relaxed state because my mind was on other things – such as the uncomfortable position I had placed my body.

“So what are you suggesting?  That I should find other positions to meditate in?”
“Precisely.  In fact, you don’t have to even be still to achieve meditation.”

This short exchange started me on my way to finding other methods to achieve that state of relaxation, that feeling of “nothingness” that I read about in various books on Zen.  I tried a lot of methods – standing, laying down on my back, walking, cycling on a stationary bike, even laying back in a warm tub of water – all with varying degrees of success.  When I came back to my friend and related all of these “adventures” to him – he smiled really large, and started to laugh loudly.  And continuously.  A lot.  Until I started to feel uncomfortable.  And he continued, until I started to get a little peeved.  I felt like the butt-end of a joke.  I’ve been involved in Paganism and mystery-related belief systems for a little more than twenty years.  And here’s this guy – a fellow Pagan – laughing at me.  Did I miss the fscking secret handshake or something??

“Calm down Tommy.  I’m laughing because I can see you trying each physical method and not achieving what you want.  You missed my point.  And you’re trying too damn hard.  Sit down.”

What followed was one of the longest conversations I’ve ever had with someone.  We talked about how I felt in each of the positions and situations that I tried.  Each time, he brought me back to examining my state of mind.  We did this…in depth…for each of the situations I described above…for five hours.  I still didn’t understand.  Or as he put it:

“You’re trying too hard.  Stop.  Relax.  Think it through.  ONE. STEP. AT. A. TIME.”

And it dawned on me.  The position only matters to the relaxing part.  Find a position where you are relaxed…not physically, but mentally.  Don’t force your feeling.  Don’t push yourself to achieve a mental state of being. You have to relax and let it BECOME you. You’ll never achieve the state you seek by forcing it to come to you.  You have to relax and let it wash over you.  Like rain.  You walk through the rain…you don’t make the rain fall around you.  It happens.

Now that I understand this, I have found that I can achieve the state I want – that feeling of near-nothingness…mental acuity…that kung-fu moment of the soul…with very little effort. I’ve meditated while on my daily walks.  I’ve meditated while standing on a bridge in the middle of a field in Colorado.  I’ve meditated while lying on my back on the floor here in my office.  I’ve meditated while riding the commuter train to the State Fair of Texas.  I just had to stop trying so hard….


3 thoughts on “Trying Too Hard

  1. I agree with you on this, and I also find that I would often "try too hard" to meditate. One of my goals for this year is to "return" to my neglected meditative practice. But, I do find that I can reach a meditative state while performing common tasks, such as bathing, brewing tea, etc. I think that meditation happens when the mind is focused on a task or thought, or, when the mind is accustomed to frequent "rituals", it can allow itself to reach a meditative state. Also, here is something you may not have thought about: meditation is not solely accomplished when relaxed. I have sometimes found that, when I am anxious, or even angry, for an extended period of time, I also "meditate" on that stress. You will know when this happens, as you will notice that your fingers and toes tingle slightly, as if "asleep". I do not mention this to suggest that anger is a benefit. In fact, too much stress or anger is detrimental, and attracts negativity. But, it is a form of meditation. The one benefit that I believe may arise from this amount of focus on the negative is, a possible revelation of a solution to the "problem" you're worrying about.

  2. Scott — good point. Strong emotions can work for some people. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them. If I have strong emotions running through me during a time frame where I want to go through a meditation – I either have to dump those emotions – or set the meditation off to the side and come back to it when I can clear my state of mind for what I am trying to do. But its a good point, some people do feel far more focused when they are in a state of high/strong emotions…and that can prove useful for them in achieving the focal point that they are wanting.

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