If it’s difficult, you’re doing it wrong.
Our culture tells us that if something isn’t difficult it’s not worth doing. We associate achievement and ‘success’ with overcoming challenges, so we only tend to believe that we can ‘succeed’ in ‘achieving’ something if we need an effort of will to do so.
This is just plain wrong, doesn’t apply to cultivating mindfulness and largely doesn’t apply to anything else related to the mind.
When we first discover that our wandering mind seemingly sabotages us as we try to be clear of our thoughts, our cultural conditioning kicks in and we ‘try harder’. This is the worst thing we can do.
To understand why let’s do a little test:
Don’t think of Pink Elephants.
Close your eyes for ten seconds and in that time, don’t think of Pink Elephants.
You thought of Pink Elephants didn’t you? It was impossible not to.
In fact, the more important it is that you don’t think of Pink Elephants, such as if your life depended on it, the more likely you would be to think of Pink Elephants! This is because in the hunter-gatherer existence for which our brains have genetically evolved, there was never a reason not to think of anything so we never developed that facility.
What we need to do instead of ‘trying harder’ is to use another thing that is in short supply in our culture and that is patience.
If we are patient, we can relax. Mindfulness cannot have a schedule applied to it. We have been conditioned to think, so finding a space without thought is a long process. It comes in time.
What we are doing when we meditate on our breath is training our minds to release our unhelpful thought processes and in time also our unhelpful emotions.
In order to become mindful, we first need to be distracted. That is the purpose of mindfulness meditation. It is a process of learning. It is our purpose to be distracted, to become aware of that distraction and return our focus to our breath which is somewhere we always have at hand and that has no emotional content.
Mindfulness meditation is sharpening the tool. Using it is in our daily life.