This was cut from an article submitted to Llewellyn annuals for 2014. I still wanted to share it, so here it is.
The Two Keys
- The ability to concentrate on a single idea or object.
- The ability to distract your attention from other thoughts, usually by introducing new thoughts.
Controlling your own thoughts seems almost as mad as the madness of completely uncontrolled thoughts! Yet mind control – positive mind control – begins in meditation. In this way, you take control of your own mind.
Because most don’t know what meditation is supposed to feel like, they expect blissful relaxation where lotuses appear while locusts hum. Those, however, who have a few years of experience in meditation built up know that time outs for the mind are not always peaceful or relaxing.
Meditation is a skill. It does involve struggle, setbacks, forgetting and remembering. It may never come easily.
Mosquitoes will bite you while you’re aligning your chakras, the phone will ring just as you get to that point where you can feel an actual “drop down” and your kids will need your help with an overflowing toilet just as you depart on the bliss wagon. That – if the bliss wagon arrives at all. It helps when establishing practice to realize that meditation feels different for everyone. Some do notice a sense of physical relaxation in their bodies. Other people that meditate report no physical changes. These latter meditators only realize that the practice makes a difference when they find their blood pressure doesn’t spike in stressful situations.
Meditation and boredom go hand-in-hand. People do not handle boredom well – we medicate against it in every way possible. So this leads to the tricky part that makes meditation both so miraculous and so banal: boredom is a form of pain. If you feel bored, you are expressing pain. Meditation ultimately takes this base form of pain and turns it into a spiritual practice, and where possible, boredom via meditation leads through alchemy into pleasure. Pleasure itself does require concentration, but we don’t mind it – pleasure is not usually stressful.