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Just a breath away

Victoria Jackson remembers that meditation is about cultivating stillness, not seeking progress

I was talking recently with my husband about my meditation practice and how I’m finding it a bit frustrating at the moment. Is it really going anywhere? What’s the point anyway? Each morning I get up, light a candle, wrap myself in a blanket and sit diligently on my cushion. But nothing much seems to happen and my mind still wanders everywhere and anywhere. I’m starting to wonder: should I just have that extra half an hour tucked up in bed instead?
My husband’s immediate reaction was to want to fix this for me (of course!). He recommended I shake it up a bit. Specifically, instead of my usual silent sitting, he suggested that I use an app or a guided meditation to help me find some focus and make better progress. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the suggestions and the support he offered, but I couldn’t help feeling that they were ways of avoiding the experience I was having. Despite my initial complaining, it made me question whether these feelings of frustration and boredom were really so bad after all. Was it actually something that needed fixing?
Then in the generous expanse of a restorative yoga class I had a little revelation – the sort of thing that seems so obvious, you wonder why it took you so long. It was a beautiful candlelit class, plenty of time and space for resting in some long, passive stretches using bolsters and blankets. We were following our breath, allowing the stillness in our bodies to settle our minds too. And I realised that in this moment I wasn’t at all bothered about whether I was getting anywhere or doing it right; I was cultivating stillness, not seeking progress. Perhaps it was the support of practicing in company or perhaps it was the teacher’s gentle insistence that we just let the experience unfold as it would. Whatever the reason, I came home to the reality of the moment – and that was enough.
Since this tiny wake-up moment in class, I’ve brought more softness to my morning sitting practice. I’m careful to frame it not as ‘meditation’ with all the associated expectations that word suggests to my Type A personality. Instead, it’s just time for sitting, for breathing and being. The rest of the day may be all about attainment and progress, but this is a rare opportunity simply to allow things to be, to take a break from needing to do anything. There’s no competition with anyone else – nor indeed with myself. It’s just a practice that will ebb and flow, sometimes seeming to offer more, sometimes less. So what if right now it seems to be more mind-wandering and less meditating? Everything changes in time. Perhaps enlightenment is just another breath away.

Victoria Jackson lives and practices in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as a vinyasa yoga teacher.

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