Meditational Bliss – Practicing Patience and Fixing Focus

In many mediation sessions, a common thought crosses my mind.

“Is this almost over?  How much longer? Come on, man.  I have shit to do.”

This thought invites several counter-thoughts.

  1. “Damn it, man.  Stop thinking. Return to the breath.”
  2. “Isn’t this the point?  We should be able to delay gratification and stick with our activities even if they are difficult.”
  3. Relax, man.  You do not have “shit to do.”  Your mind is simply anxious to move.  Sit down, child.  At the moment, there is nothing to do but nothing at all.  Appreciate it. Embrace it.

I admittedly need more work in developing compassionate self-talk.  However, the second counter-thought makes a ton of sense to me. What if fighting through impatience and boredom is, in fact, the point of meditation?

Of course, it is not the only point.  Meditation can have many goals and objectives – with no goal superior or inferior to another.  

However, when I am able to accept and let go of impatient thoughts, a beautiful realization reaches my mind.

“I have the time to sit still for 20 minutes and do absolutely nothing.  What a blessed life I live.”

Every time I concern myself with not having enough time, I can return to this thought.  I always have time to sit and do absolutely nothing, yet somehow that “non-doing” is one of the most productive parts of my day.

The inner dialogue that arises in times of impatience proves useful throughout my daily life.  It is not restricted to boredom, either. It can also combat desires of instant gratification or procrastinatory resistance.

“I don’t want to teach this class.  I’m tired. I want to eat lunch.”

“I understand that you are hungry and tired, but so are the students.  You both need to survive this class together. There is nothing else to do right now except teaching this class.”

I used to struggle with intense restlessness.  My scouting friends called me “Pacer” as I walked to-and-fro during meetings.  The option of sitting still was so far off the table that my dog was licking patience off of the floor.

While I cannot say that waiting is becoming easier, I do believe that meditation gives me the tools to cope with impatience more effectively.

This is an important lesson for anyone.  We cannot control how much psychic energy we release.  However, we do hold the power to choose tools and channels that promote a healthy release.

For me, meditation, writing, exercise, and lesson planning have become those channels.  One guiding thought continues to help me cultivate patience.

“There is nothing else I need to do right now.”

The key words are “right now.”  I may have a 10-mile to-do list, but I still have to knock those items off one thing at a time.  This requires focus. Focus requires a singular goal in the present moment.

“There is nothing else I need to do right now.”

Prioritizing only one activity in-the-moment has profound benefits.  For one, I feel much more productive. While computers may be capable of competently running multiple tabs and applications at once, I am no computer.  My efforts to do multiple tasks at the same time inevitably results in poor results across the board.

On the other hand, when I am able to focus on one task at a time, I normally finish everything I have to and then some.

“There is nothing else I need to do right now.”

I also use this thought to acquire a greater appreciation of social recreation.  Sometimes I struggle with guilty thoughts of productivity lost.

“I hope you had fun with your friends because you missed many opportunities to get shit done.”

With these intrusive thoughts, I not only fail to do things that I deem “productive” but also failed to be fully present with my friends.  I don’t have fun.

This is similar to the procrastinator’s dilemma.  They feel anxiety about not doing work and consequently fail to reap the benefits of “leisure time.”  In my opinion, that makes procrastination an unequivocal waste of time.

On the other hand, I can choose to appreciate leisure and socializing for what it is – recharging my psychic batteries.  

“All work and no play makes Ian a dull boy.”

No.  All work and no play makes Ian burn out and secretly await the sweet release of death.  Workaholism is as much an addiction as any illicit substance. In some ways, it is more sinister because our society tends to lionize hard work and demonize sloth.  However, just because a lot of hard work is great doesn’t constant hard work at all times is better.  We must seek balance.

Instead of lamenting over opportunity costs, productivity levels, or other time-related economic theories, I need to acknowledge that working to burnout is an opportunity cost in itself.  If I cannot focus on having fun, how can I be sure I am putting my full focus into my work?  When I am socializing with friends, the guiding thought remains.

“There is nothing else I need to do right now.”

It’s Friday.  I sit in the back of my classroom.  Midterms exams are a weekend away. Students self-study with impressive focus.  I clatter away on my portable keyboard with only one thought echoing inside:

“There is nothing else I need to do right now.”

Photo Corner

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I spent one Saturday meeting up with a new friend in Naju.  Many Korean cities have a thing for dancing fountains.

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The Suncheon International Flower Park had a small parade of who I assume are Russian day laborers.

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Cheers to steaks and beer.

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The Russian procession also sported a few floats.

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Snoop Dogg:  Da-da-da-da-da.

Dr. Dre:  It’s the mothafuckin’ I-A-N.

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Any child looking to become tall should follow the standard Russian diet.  Some women defy gravity with their height.

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I took a hike up and down Oryong Mountain into a local village.  I subsequently left when too many dogs gave me the stink-eye and aggressive barks to match.

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Dog 1:  Hey!  Hey!  Do you see this guy!  Foreigner!

Dog 2:  Yeah!  Yeah!  I see him!  Fuck that guy!

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The final float gave me the final clue I needed.  Some form of flower festival prompted this conspicuously all-white-people parade.

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I know the weather is better when outdoor night Zumba makes a triumphant return.

 

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