Restlessness – the need for constant motion. It’s often one of the first things that people notice when they start sitting down to meditate. Your back is sore, your left eyebrow is inexplicably itchy, and there’s suddenly a list of emails you urgently need to send.
But one of the things we’re learning in meditation is that we don’t need to react to every single thought or feeling that occurs in our minds. Often when we experience a restless urge, whether it’s a thought or a physical itch or a pain, we just need to acknowledge it, and then we can start to let it go. Once we learn to do this, we start to see that the impulse to be constantly on the move is quite unnecessary. And we might think, “Why all this movement? Why can’t I be happy with this, as it is, right now?”
I find this physical example of sitting down to meditate so interesting. It shows us that our natural state is one in which we make constant adjustments to try to be more comfortable. In fact, modern life seems to be built around a desire to avoid discomfort at all costs. And not just physical discomfort, but more subtle forms of discomfort like boredom, loneliness and awkwardness, as well. But the irony is that if we spend all our time trying to make adjustments so we don’t encounter any of these feelings, how are we ever going to experience any peace? Or to put it another way, if we’re always in a constant state of restless movement, all we’ll know is restlessness.
Meditation helps us develop a more balanced mind. One that is not constantly swayed by the need to run away from or toward particular thoughts and feelings. We start to recognize that some may be more regular visitors than others, and some may be more pleasant, but in the end they are all alike. They’re just thoughts, just feelings.
Ultimately it will be more rewarding if we can learn to be at ease with what’s happening right now. And if we can approach life with a gentle and open mind, all of our other good intentions become a bit more attainable too. Not places we’re impatient to get to, but a part of our lives, day to day and moment to moment.