by Jessica Graham
Experiencing a slump in your practice? We all experience occasional downturns in the urge to practice, as I know from personal experience. This year has had a lot of slumps. For me a slump consists of a strong resistance to sitting my butt down and putting in the time on the cushion. This comes in the form of a heavy achy feeling in my torso paired with the overwhelming urge to wash the dishes, check my facebook page, watch apple trailers or reorganize my dresser. While it’s nice to have my jeans neatly folded and a witty status update, without my daily practice I’m not an equanimous camper. Often just working with the sensations and thoughts about not wanting to sit can be enough to jump start my practice, but sometimes I need a little more to get going.
When I first started meditating regularly I had a lot of extreme experiences. It was non-stop entertainment for my senses and some very speedy emotional growth. My subconscious was ready to download and man did it ever. After a few years those wild times slowed down and I realized that there was no end goal that I was going to reach though peak experiences. I now know that there are many more layers to explore and that they will probably include a lot of interesting phenomena, but overall my practice has a simpler flavor now. Coming down from the intensity of the first flush can be a little painful and can create some slumps. That’s when I first learned to sit down and meditate even when I didn’t want to.
I look at meditation like brushing my teeth; it’s something I do every day no matter what. I like to have fresh breath and a fresh mind. Here are a few tools that have worked for me when I’ve experienced resistance.
1) Give yourself rewards
I know that there are parenting philosophies that suggest “no rewards, no punishments,” but rewards work for me. I get into Grownup Jessica mode and bribe the Brat version of me into sitting down for 30 minutes. It goes something like this “If you meditate you can watch an episode of Mad Men,” or “If you meditate you can go get a vegan cupcake,” or “If you meditate you don’t have to clean your room tonight.” The funny thing is, often by the time I’m done sitting the Brat is gone and I don’t necessarily want the bribe anymore!
2) Find a meditation buddy
This one is really helpful for me. I much less likely to spend time arguing with myself about not wanting to mediate if another person is there. That would be kind of embarrassing. From time to time my friend Amanda and I will meet up to practice together and then discuss our experiences over tea. My boyfriend has a daily practice, so sitting with him motivates me too. We have been taking hikes at night and then sitting to meditate with the crickets and coyotes. Meditating with your significant other can boost your own practice and is a great way to spend meaningful time with your loved one.
3) Join a sitting group
Think meditation buddy but on a larger scale. Having the support of a group is really powerful. Most of the people I spend time with have a practice and are interested in talking about it, and this meditation community has become very important to me. There can be a lot of loneliness, confusion and frustration on this path and it makes all the difference to have people around you who get it. A Google search should bring up a list of groups in your area. If you live in Los Angeles feel free to contact me for a list.
4) Be a daredevil
My mother and stepfather’s basement has always scared me. The house is hundreds of years old and surrounded by woods. The basement is a big, mostly unfinished, stone space and with the lights out it is the perfect set for a horror movie. Even as an adult I will run up the steps as fast as I can to avoid the monsters and ghouls that are at my heels. During a recent visit home I challenged myself to meditate in the basement with the lights off. Whoa. Talk about working with fear. The images and body sensations were off the hook. It was terrifying and exciting. Finding excitement in your practice can be just what you need to get the mindfulness spark going again. So do a little extreme meditation and see what happens.
These are just a few things that have worked for me. Find what works for you and if you’re in a slump right now remember that, just like everything else, it will change.