What Happens When You Stop Trying

The first time I started a meditative practice was back in 2010. I think it lasted about two weeks.  Every year following that I’d set an intention to try to meditate but it didn’t work. I was too busy (funny, I know). I attempted to begin again many times through the years… when my schedule slowed a bit or when Oprah and Deepak had one of their 21-day mediation challenges. I’d do well for about ten days and then fall behind so stop. Perhaps you can relate?

I really wanted to meditate and experience the benefits I believed would result but it wasn’t happening for me. What I eventually realized was first, I never gave it enough time to set in as a habit to experience any of the benefits and second, I was trying to force something to happen during meditation.  You know…. I was trying to make thoughts stop, which resulted in the following repetitive voice track in my head: “Stop thinking. Can’t you just quiet your mind and stop the chatter? This is NOT working… ssshhhh.  Just focus on your breathing.”

When I began my writing sabbatical earlier this year and was in the midst of a spiritual journey that I unintentionally ended up on after my Dad died, I decided not only did I want to meditate but I also needed to meditate.  As part of grieving my Dad, I needed to sit in silence and simply feel whatever needed to be felt without judging those feelings. I wanted to process the emotions of grief and sadness so they moved through my body, didn’t get stuck, or keep me stuck.  As I did this I realized there was no need to shut myself up or even stop the chatter. This was time to let it be what it needed to be without attaching to it.  When I stopped judging the thoughts and feelings that arose during my meditative time, it became easier to sit in silence longer.  It became a welcome experience instead of a battle in my mind about all the chattering occurring. When I stopped resisting the thoughts and feelings as they arose and just let them be, they passed. They moved on. Eventually what was left was peace and silence.  I was amazed.  It took at least two months of regular meditation for this to occur.  Once it did I loved the peace that accompanied the 30 minutes I set aside each morning to meditate. (By the way, I didn’t start with 30 minutes; I started with ten and gradually increased.)

When I reached this level of comfort and appreciation for the meditation time, I wanted something more to happen.  Of course this was my ego trying to take control but regardless, I was ready for what was next in my meditative practice.  I’d read stories and heard people talk about the bliss they experienced the longer they sat in meditation; the oneness they experienced with All-That-Is.  I thought to myself, “why isn’t this happening for me?”  I wanted to experience that energy of oneness too!

So, I’d sit in meditation and try really hard to make something happen, again.  I was focused on finding the bliss and experiencing the energy of oneness. I did this for weeks and became frustrated each time I sat on the meditation pillow.  I felt like a failure. It wasn’t happening. What’s wrong with me? I thought.  I happened to be reading the book Resurrecting Jesus, by Adyashanti at this time and came across a section about mediation. Adyashanti wrote that, often when we meditate we try to control our minds.  We make meditating an ego-driven activity because the ego believes it must be in control of our spiritual life [and in control of all of our life] for anything to happen. When we sit in silence without trying to control our mind or the outcome of meditation, we are acting in faith that whatever happens or doesn’t happen is exactly what’s supposed to be.  We relieve ourselves of the pressure to try to make the meditative experience anything other than exactly what it is.

I was so grateful this information showed up when it did; otherwise, I might have once again, given up on my meditation practice. Instead I simply let it be. I stopped trying to make it anything other than what it was. I approached each meditation knowing that whatever happened or didn’t happen during that time was exactly what I needed that day. By letting go of a need for “something to happen” during meditation, each experience became more peaceful and more blissful than the last. It was when I stopped trying to force something to happen that things did happen.

I find this to be true in most areas of life. When we try to force or make something happen, we keep it away. Martha Beck calls it “grasping energy”.  The very act of grasping at something creates the breeze that keeps it out of reach. Think about trying to grab a feather floating through the air. If you try too hard, your hand creates a breeze that blows the feather away from you. It’s the same with grasping at, forcing, or trying too hard to obtain the things we want in life.  Once you let go and stop trying so hard you allow what’s meant to unfold in your life to appear.  Five years ago I would have laughed at myself for writing this blog post and even believing this. I was the queen of “making it happen” – despite how awful it might have felt or how hard I had to push the boulder uphill, I was gonna make it happen, damn-it.  Not anymore.  I’ve discovered it’s when I let go and stop trying so hard, the things that are meant to show up, show up.  And, the things that don’t show up most likely weren’t what I wanted anyway.

What are you grasping at or “trying to make happen”?  Let go of the reigns just a bit and you might be surprised when what you’ve been trying so hard to make happen simply shows up.


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