When I first tried to meditate seriously, as I was instructed to do from some of the books I ran across, I found it impossible, literally impossible. My mind would instantly fixate on something other than my focus of attention. Starting with watching a candle, the simplest possible form of meditation, seconds later I would find myself mulling over some event of the day, some necessary future task, or simply thinking to myself “I can’t stand this!” I was horrified to discover that contrary to my self-satisfied opinion of myself, my mind was not the disciplined intellect in which I took so much pride. I had been a good student throughout my life, and made the leap of consciousness from that achievement to assuming that my mind was my own, and subject to discipline, whenever I presumed it was necessary. What I had not realized was that the motivation in the past to accumulating knowledge was the impetus to filling my consciousness with even more concepts, and that was reward enough for a voracious mind, which depended upon concepts to justify its existence. So long as I studied, my mind would focus. But ask it to remain in abeyance while focusing on an unrewarding object such as a candle, well, then, “I’m outta here!” It was like a wild monkey. It would concentrate on things that underwrote its apparent superiority, but tell it to shut up for a moment, and all hell broke loose.
This went on for months and months. I would dedicate only 5 minutes to this kind of discipline, and yet those 5 minutes turned into interminable minutes. In retrospect, I see this as evidence of the flexibility of time, and what we call psychological time is actually evidence of the relativity of time, not only in the material universe, but also in the universe of consciousness, which, in the end, determines the material universe.
Eventually I came to be able to sit for 10, the 20, then 30 minutes at a stretch, without falling asleep or squirming in discomfort. I had taken yoga many years before while in the Foreign Service, and this agility derived from that practice served me in good stead toward being able to comfortably sit for a long time without fidgeting.
However, despite the years of practice, I never became proficient at meditation of a formal nature, and thinking back, I realize that it has benefits only in bringing the mind back out of the external world into the body of the meditator, something I had not ever done consciously previously. It is an effective tool toward discipline of the mind, but that can be done on a moment-to-moment basis simply by remembering to do so. That does not require formal sitting, but it does require commitment to remember.
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