It’s easy to start something new, isn’t it? A new diet, a new exercise programme, a new hobby, even a new relationship – starting off with the best of intentions and zealous enthusiasm is the easy bit. The tricky part is keeping it going.
So often, enthusiasm starts to wane as the novelty wears off, as we meet obstacles, or get lazy, or grow bored, or become interested in something else. As Homer tells Bart in one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons, “If something’s difficult to learn, son, then it’s really not worth doing.” Whilst this is undoubtedly one way to approach life, it doesn’t seem to be the most skillful way of living. Generally-speaking, it takes time and patience to learn the things in life which are valuable, precious, and important. As they say, “If it was easy, they’d all be doing it.” Nothing could be truer than when it comes to meditation – it requires courage to sit with the mind on a regular basis and be present with whatever arises. Meditation is not some quick-fix, self-improvement programme. We are taking time out to train the mind; we are fundamentally shifting the way we relate to our thoughts and feelings. At first, that can sound a little overwhelming. But the benefits are experienced by repeating this exercise little and often, slowly but surely building a stable sense of awareness that starts to filter through to the rest of our life. The more frequently we practice being aware, the more beneficial the meditation becomes.
Of course, the repetitive nature of meditation can lead to resistance; the very mind we’re training can create boredom, excuses, indifference. We might even convince ourselves that we’ve cracked it after completing the Basics, or a series of meditation courses, in the Headspace app. That’s why our motivation is key. If we take the time to clarify the principles of meditation — to understand the right way to approach the technique, and to appreciate the potential it has for transforming our life — then we’ll have no problem at all in keeping it going. Being clear in our motivation, knowing why we’re doing what we’re doing, means that we’ll rarely have trouble sitting for at least ten minutes. The beauty of taking this time out is that it provides us with an opportunity to reflect beforehand on what our motivation is. The reason we started to meditate might not be the same reason weeks, months, or years down the line; our motivation can change over time, either with the changing circumstances or with a shift in our perspective. Either way, the stronger and clearer the motivation, the easier it is to apply. Clearly, the broader and more altruistic the intention, the easier it might be to continue the practice, no matter what obstacles are faced along the way. But it’s always worth remembering that our motivation not only defines our experience of meditation, but also the benefit we experience in life as a result.