When Nothing Happens in Meditation

When Nothing Happens in Meditation

Discovering the Art of Patience and Presence in Meditation Practice - By Richard Schultz

Reading time: 3 minutes

The process of meditation seems simple enough: sit still, quiet the mind and wait for the inner bliss to come. But meditation is way more nuanced than that. Most people hit the proverbial wall at some point. I’ve been meditating for over 20 years, and I still hit the wall every now and then. But when I do, I remember this simple piece of advice: don't meditate to relax; relax to meditate.

This is an old Taoist saying, and it still rings true today. Meditation starts with your approach, and your approach has to be free of distractions from the start.

A Relaxed Focus

We should always begin our meditation practice with a calm and easy feeling inside. We should never rush into it, or approach it like it is just another thing we have to do in life. Put your devices away, and sit quietly for a few minutes before you start.

Allow your mind to settle down. I like to sit and look out of my window, just simply watching the clouds drift by or the trees sway in the wind. When you connect with nature first, it’s easier to connect with your own nature.

The Reward of Patience

I spent a year as an ordained Buddhist monk in Myanmar. When I first arrived, one of the senior monks taught me an important lesson that I still use to this day. He said to create a feeling that the meditation object you’re using is your home. Whether you use your breath, a mantra or whatever else, feel like you are safe and comfortable there.

Whenever your mind strays away, just patiently return to the comfort of your home, again and again. In this way, you will gradually build a sustained and unbroken period of inner silence.

They say a watched pot never boils. However, meditation is the art of watching the pot just to watch it, just to be in the moment. You are observing with absolute patience, and without analysis. It is this moment-to-moment patience that is really the key.

Nothing Happening is the Point

Many people feel a compulsion during meditation that they should be doing something else. In yoga, we call these compulsions Samskaras [mental impressions]. These imprints of restlessness are deeply rooted in our subconscious, and they take time to uproot.

In modern times, just simply sitting still and doing nothing for 20 minutes should be considered a success – heck, even for five minutes! But when you can sit in silence for a prolonged period of time, something very pleasurable happens.

A relaxation reflex kicks in, and the whole body is overcome with a general sense of well-being. This is the parasympathetic response in the nervous system. The heart rate and breathing rate slow down, and a cool vibration pervades the entire body. And all of this is simply the result of your ability to patiently observe your meditation object for a sustained period of time. Your patience will reward you with all of these benefits.

So, make meditation* a daily ritual that you enjoy. Begin your practice with a calm and easy feeling inside, and don't rush. Conjure up the feeling that your meditation object is your "home" and keep returning to it. Try to look forward to your practice, and believe you are doing something good for yourself.

Happy sitting!

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Richard Schultz

Richard Schultz is a well-traveled teacher and entrepreneur.
He lived in Asia for 20 years, studying eastern philosophy and
teaching yoga.