The last few weeks has brought formal meditation back into focus again. This has been a good thing resulting in me finally starting something I’ve been meaning to for awhile: attending the weekly Monday night sit at Ceres.
It was a good space with some time at the end where people talked a little about how the session went for them. I didn’t have anything to contribute because spurred by their comments, I was thinking about how much I have changed in my approach to meditation.
I used to be a lot more focussed on technique and meditative experiences of absolute concentration and stillness. I also used to be a lot more driven while sitting. The image of straining on the cushion with a furrowed brow to achieve total concentration springs to mind. I also used to be a lot more judgemental about whether I’ve had a good or bad sit.
For the most part, I’ve pretty much given up on most of it although I haven’t managed to completely move away from “good” versus “bad” sits. These days, when I sit, I simply sit – as things come up whether they are sensations, stimuli or thoughts, I let them go trying all the while to remain gently aware. As there is no shortage of things coming up, returning to the breath or a central focal point is not so essential.
Thinking about it a bit more, the reason for this shift is that I’m placing a lot more focus on compassion practices off the cushion. I just don’t particularly value intense concentration meditation any more. Paradoxically enough, this means that I’m planning a 10 day silent retreat in September and looking forward to spending some time just sitting.