Meditation, Mindfulness

The Meditation Metaphor That Could Harm Your Practice

How the metaphor of physical exercise can cause complacency in your meditation practice.

When teaching meditation, the right metaphors make all the difference between great instruction and a lack of clarity. I often compare meditation to exercise when teaching. Physical exercise is commonly understood, while many struggle to grasp the technique of strengthening the mind.

This point of reference supports learning. We know exercise is beneficial for our physical health, just as meditation is beneficial for mental health. Developing your practice is like training your mind at the gym, building strength, improving form, developing muscle memory to alter the structure of the brain.

But there is a significant difference between physical exercise meditation. When allowing this metaphor to dictate your approach to meditation practice, it could do more harm than good.

Mindfulness, Psychology, Spirituality

Breaking Free From The Illusion Of Psychological Time

psychological time
The past is memory. The future is imagination.

Spiritual growth is an unlearning process. Awakening into the true nature of reality requires constant unlearning of false beliefs and a re-discovery of the direct experience of the present moment. Conceptual reality is a house of mirrors, a myriad of illusion. Of all illusions, psychological time is the trickiest to detect.

Seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years… The passage of time is seemingly objective and compatible with experience. Events appear to unfold sequentially, superimposed onto the clock. But the past is a memory. The future is imagination. Life is eternally present, an infinite succession of Nows.

As Mark Twain said, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” So much of our attention and energy is spent on holding on to days-gone-by or worrying about things that may never materialise. How does life change, once liberated from these opposing forces?

Mindfulness, Psychology

SAND Italy 2019: Vulnerability, Intimacy, And Avoiding Self-Sabotage

SAND Italy
Presenting at my first conference, SAND 2019.

I’m enchanted by exposed brick, arched ceilings and passionate discussions about the nondual nature of existence. The magical space I’m sitting in, this sweet July afternoon, is the cellar of Castello di Titignano, Orvieto. Its shade and air circulation offers respite from the intense Italian sun. I’m grateful. And cool.

Barrels of fermenting grapes from nearby vineyards are replaced with pop-up chairs, projector screens, speakers. A colourful poster for SAND Italy 2019 reminds me of how far I’ve come. 12:35pm. It’s my turn to present at the Science and Nonduality Conference:

Welcome to the Age of Re-Enchantment: Magic Transforming Mental Health and the World. 

Here we goooooo! Months of visualising, mind-mapping and soul searching has come to this.

Mindfulness, Psychology, Spirituality

Sometimes, Thoughts Need To Change Before You Can Live In The Moment

skilled thinking
Skilled thinking is an overlooked tool on the spiritual path.

We are told to be aware, to pay attention, to create space. Yet conscious engagement with thoughts, with the intention to change them skillfully, has immense benefits. Although counterintuitive, it boosts the ability to be mindful and accelerates spiritual growth.

Maturing the ego and cultivating a skilled, self-serving intellect, is just as rewarding as the transcendental elements of spiritual practice. But the message in the West is often black-or-white; the ego is all bad, the solution to troubling thoughts is always being in the Now.

Living in the present is simple and impossibly hard. The complexity of mind distracts in a multitude of ways. Neglecting the quality of thoughts makes presence much harder; if your thoughts work against you, the task is greater. Yet it’s rare to see spiritual guidance on techniques adjusting the thinking mind.

Mindfulness

Does The Phantom Planner Sabotage Your Present?

The Phantom Planner may sabotage your present.

I’ll eat a banana with porridge this morning. Yesterday it mushed into an off-yellow lump. Today, I’ll chop smaller slices, and spread evenly on top. Shall I add an apple? Mmmm… It’s 5:30am in the meditation hall, but I’m already an hour ahead, fantasising about breakfast.

Thinking! Thinking! I realise I’m distracted from the task at hand; attentive awareness of bodily sensations. I’m five days into my first Vipassana retreat, and it’s become apparent — I’m a constant planner. Now, there’s no place to hide. In this environment, with a strict schedule of meditation and rest, there’s nothing to plan. But this morning, I’m contemplating fruit-slicing like it’s the elixir of life.