Here is a beautiful Sufi story that illustrates how the human mind works:
In his garden, a Mullah had a beautiful apple tree that bore delicious fruit. This was well known in his neighbourhood and many children would sneak into his garden to steal his apples when they became ripe. Every time the Mullah saw a child coming up to the apple tree, he would charge out of the house screaming and yelling at the offender. One day, a neighbour who had been watching the daily drama took the Mullah by the arm and said, “Mullah, you are such a peaceful man and the tree in your garden yields so much more than you could possibly eat. Why do you chase the poor children away?”
“Children”, said Mullah, “are like thoughts. When you chase them away, you can be assured they will return.”
The work that meditation promotes is very rewarding because it puts us in contact with our inner voice, desires, and wisdom. It allows us to see reality more clearly, deepening our understanding and putting us in contact with areas of our lives that we are not aware of, or that we are scared to explore.
The practice of meditation brings empowerment. By paying attention to the present moment, we get in contact with our intuition; that inner knowing of what is right or wrong, to honour our existence. The other phenomenon that takes place is that we gain awareness. We start to own our pluses and minuses and, because of this, we become less judgemental of others’ pluses and minuses. We, little by little, become more accepting and, at the same time, free. We depend less and less on external approval; we find our inner compass in our intuition and awareness. That is empowerment and freedom.
There are some things we can follow to help the practice harmonise with our routines and lives. For it to be sustainable, we need to make it a habit; routine or behaviour that occurs often and regularly. For a habit to form we need, above everything, repetition.
- Commit for the long term. Challenge yourself to practice for the 60 days of the workshop. Do not examine your progress every day or every week. Practice it and let it go of any particular expectation.
- Make it formal. Meditate every day. It is better to do five minutes every day than 20 minutes only one day of the week. Repetition is what creates the habit, not the length of the practice.
- Choose a place where you will meditate. It can be a room in your home or an area of a room that has another function. Make your space special and sacred. Perhaps you can add a candle, or a special chair or cushion, incense, crystals, or a special image. You can add anything that has a special meaning for you.
- Be sure that the place you have chosen is an area where you can be undisturbed and in solitude for the length of the meditation.
- Keep your practice short. Just follow the scripts that the course provides you with.
- Choose the same time of day, every day. If you are a morning person, perhaps meditation in the early hours suits your taste better. Choose what feels more easy and comfortable.
- Look for books and CDs that can re-inspire you to practice.
- Generate moments of awareness during the day. Just stop for a minute, find your breath, and be present.
- Let the meditation be and don’t get stuck in feelings of anger or frustration because of the way you practiced. Acknowledge those feelings and let them depart from you.
- Experiment with different types of practices and postures: Cross-legged, sitting, or lying on your back. This last position is not advisable for beginners because it can disconnect your attention and lead you to fall asleep.
- Take notice of when your interest in meditation begins to decrease. After the excitement at the beginning, you will find resistance to practice in the form of lack of time, lack of purpose, or boredom. This is when you should practice the most. At this point, it is advisable to go back to your books and CDs.