I told myself last night: the first thing you will do tomorrow morning, after meditation, is to write a blog post. The alarm sounded at 06:31, a great time for me (I would get up even earlier, but then I would have to go to bed at 9:30 and I'm already too much of a grandma). I rolled out of bed, and obediently sat down on my meditation cushion with my timer. I've been doing this for years now. Still, there is often a lot of resistance to the practice. It should be the easiest thing in the world. To just sit down, close my eyes and breathe. But taming the wild and dangerous beast that is the mind, is no picnic. As soon as I sit down and try to focus on the breath, I become aware of what chaos is in there. Turmoil. How damn difficult it is to stay focused. And it's frustrating.
Same thing with writing. This task too, requires concentration. I must focus my attention in order to birth decent text. But right beyond the blank document I am writing on, there's a world of distraction. There's my inbox where perhaps an exciting offer or invitation just has landed (even though I checked it minutes ago and only found a remainder for my weekly Pilates class), there's the multiple newspapers I compulsively read (despite the feel-bad effects). There are webshops selling loads of pretty stuff I truly don't really need, but you can always look ... then you get tempted, obsessing -- more turmoil fuel for the mind.
Both in meditation and in trying to write I become aware of how unbalanced my mind STILL is after hours and hours, years and years of practice. I've been practicing asana for about twenty years now. And meditation on and off for over ten. Daily for about six years. And I have reaped many, many benefits, but there is still a lot of work to do.
According to a book I just read (The Attention Revolution) it would take a Tibetan monk, living the life of a recluse, in a remote location without worldly distractions 3-12 months of full-time meditation to reach a place where her mind would be totally balanced (and that in turn would generate 'magical powers' as also described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.
Living like I live, in a city, with internet, a smartphone, skype, instagram, whatsapp, radio, a social life etc, etc, and trying to juggle teaching and practicing yoga and meditation with playing in a band, having a boyfriend, having friends, lots of interests and lots of possessions -- to say that conditions are less than ideal is an understatement.
Lately I have become intensely aware of how much I suck at multi-tasking. I am no longer able to listen to music and write an email. Even when I am cooking and listening to the radio or a podcast I know that I am missing out on both fronts. There's a finite amount of attention we have. Perhaps we could call them 'feelers' or 'tentacles.' Let's say there is a total of 500 attention feelers. If I am able to use every last one of those on the coming and the going of the breath, the breath becomes very interesting. Because my awareness will have so much more dept, I will become aware of much more nuance.
Same with cooking. If all of my feelers are focused on cooking, I will surely sense more notes in the various scents of my ingredients. I will experience more dimension and depth in the crackling of the oil in the pan. And how the sound changes when I add onion, and then again when I add garlic. I will experience the vibrancy of the veggie colours more vividly: the deep red of tomatoes, the blast of green of the parsley, the shades of white, yellow and beige of the onions. But if I'm listening to a podcast while cooking, some of my feelers will be there, and some on the cooking (and some surely out and about, lost in thought, worry, anticipation) and I won't experience either the podcast nor the cooking fully.
Our success in life depends on our ability to focus. And this regardless of our definition of success. If you want a successful career in any field you need to be able to concentrate, to focus. First, in order to study and get the grades required to get into the program of study, then to write the job application and then to do the job well.
If you want to write, make art, music -- you also need to be able to concentrate.
If happiness is your pursuit, well, being able to focus your attention is also necessary. People rate themselves as unhappier, or less at ease when their mind is wandering than when it's focused. When we aren't able to direct our attention where we like to direct it, chances are our minds will wander, or, that the awareness will latch onto thoughts/memories of painful events of the past or any other undesirable mental activity.
Training the mind is hard work. Just like writing is. It may feel better for a moment to lazily surf the internet, from webshop to youtube video to celebrity gossip to my gmail inbox to yoga leggings for the time being, but afterwards I will be left with the same feeling as after eating a bag of pick 'n'mix candy.
And if I ever reach the point when my mind is fully tamed, when I can use it the way I WANT TO, instead of being its slave, I will be able to walk on the water and ride rainbows like waterslides. I am motivated by that.