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The Least Amount of Effort in Meditation

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Someone emailed me with some questions about the role of effort in meditation, and about their tendency to try to hard until they felt a sense of strain while meditating. Here is my response:

Your questions are very good ones. It seems to come down to the question of effort or no effort. And yet there is an in-between place where you make the very minimum amount of effort. That is what meditation is really for: to find the place where you are efforting the very least amount possible. The very least amount of effort is to just notice what is happening and then allow it to be the way it is.

This does require effort, but so little that the tendency is to still try too hard, for example by focusing the noticing in some way, like noticing the thoughts. Even more simple is just noticing whatever awareness touches whether it is a thought, a sensation, a blank or empty experience, or even an arising of presence or Being.

The point of this minimal effort is to simply to be present. The only measure of whether it was a "good" meditation or not is whether you sat there for the allotted time or not. Anything else that happens or any results of the meditation are not your concern. Even surrender is not something you do, it is just something that happens to you. By meditating, you are present if surrender happens to you. You are also present if conditioning gets triggered, or total dissolution of the ego and merging into the Absolute happens. You are also present if your butt starts to ache or you get restless. You are present if nothing happens. Your only job is to be present. Everything else is in the hands of Being or Presence.

However, there is a little twist to all of this in that if trying to hard arises, then you can just be present to the experience of trying to hard. You mention a feeling of strain that arises. What is that like? How do you know there is strain? What sensations are present that let you know there is strain present? Are they bad sensations? You do not need to fix or change the experience of straining. Just give it attention like anything else.

There are practical things you can do to allow yourself to be more present. One of them is to drop into the Heart as you mention, or you may also try dropping your awareness all the way down into your belly. Then just let the noticing happen from the Heart and/or belly. This accesses the natural capacity of your Being to just notice. It is easier to give this very least effort of noticing from the lower centers of the body without the sense of strain arising, or the counfusion that comes from trying to figure all of this out with the mind.

Lastly, you can simply know that it is working perfectly. The actual unfolding and awakening of your consciousness is again not something you do. It is just something that happens to you. Meditation and even self-inquiry are just a means to be home when Presence arises. They do not cause Presence to happen, they just mean that you are noticing when it does happen.

Nirmala's Book in Spanish: Nirmala libro en español

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New: Nirmala's book, Living from the Heart, is now available in Spanish in both paperback and ebook versions.

Nuevo: libro de Nirmala, Vivir desde el Corazón, ya está disponible en español aqui. Ambas versiones de bolsillo y libro electrónico están disponibles aquí, junto con una descarga gratuita de la segunda parte.

Nuevo libre espiritual por Nirmala
Durante siglos, las enseñanzas espirituales nos han señalado el camino al Corazón como una fuente de sabiduría, verdad, paz y amor. Le llamamos corazón porque estas realidades profundas son experimentadas con más fuerza en la región del corazón físico. Sin embargo, el corazón espiritual no está limitado a su situación física en tu cuerpo. El corazón es la totalidad de tu conexión con esas cualidades esenciales y grandes dimensiones de tu verdadera naturaleza como un Ser sin límites. Cualquier exploración de la verdad de tu Ser, debe incluir un descubrimiento de las capacidades y cualidades de este tierno, amoroso y sabio aspecto de tu verdadera naturaleza.

Vivir desde el Corazón consiste de tres partes que exploran vivir desde el corazón espiritual. La primera parte, Desde el Corazón, ofrece formas sencillas de deslizar la consciencia hacia el Corazón y así cambiar a una perspectiva más amplia y permisiva, y a una experiencia más completa del mundo y de su verdadera naturaleza como espacio consciente. Sigue explorando el descenso de la consciencia hacia el vientre y finalmente hacia el Corazón espiritual, el cual incluye la mente, el corazón y el vientre. Estos simples cambios de perspectiva pueden alterar su experiencia de la vida y sus retos de manera profunda. Resulta que no importa cuál sea su experiencia; lo importante es desde donde la percibe.

La segunda parte, Sabiduría del Corazón, explica como el Corazón es un sabio y preciso guía hacia la verdad. La verdades todo aquello que abra su Corazón y calme su mente. Esta simple definición elimina muchas ideas confusas y creencias y lleva a la fuente directa de sabiduría y guía disponible en su propio Corazón.

La tercera parte, Amar es dar, no recibir, señala la verdadera fuente de amor en su propia Corazón. La esencia del amor es la espaciosa y abierta atención a nuestra consciencia. La consciencia es la fuerza más gentil, buena e intima del mundo. Toca todo, pero no se impone ni exige. Sorprendentemente, la experiencia de esta consciencia, o amor, es más plena cuando la da a otros, no cuando lo recibe. Mientras más amor da, mas amor siente. Es dando amor libremente que nos llenamos de amor.

A través del libro, se señala más allá de la experiencia del Corazón y la sabiduría, paz y amor del mismo, para explorar la posibilidad de reconocer estas cualidades como lo que es usted. El Corazón con toda su alegría, satisfacción, paz, amor y sabiduría no es sólo algo que puede sentir con más plenitud; es lo que usted siempre ha sido, y siempre será. Al reconocer que su verdadera naturaleza es la plenitud del Ser, usted puede descansar tranquilo de toda búsqueda y esfuerzo, y simple mente ser como es.

Adquiera Vivir desde el Corazón por 11.95 en Amazon.com

Comprar una versión Kindle por $2.95 en Amazon.com

Adquiera la versión electrónica del libro, o Ebook, por tan sólo $2.95 en varios formatos incluyendo PDF, Epub, Mobi y Palm Doc

Obtenga una muestra del libro:


The True Gift of Inquiry

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Someone emailed me with the following question:

I feel like I am getting the hang of being with the feeling when fear or anger or other difficult emotions arise. It is a kind of burning, and I've been noticing the thought or story associated with the feeling, then letting go of the thoughts and letting it burn. When I do this, I find that the difficult emotion is really just energy, and when I allow it, it is actually invigorating.

My question is how do I know how long to stay with the feeling? Sometimes it turns to pure energy and goes away. Other times with more deeply rooted emotions, it doesn't go away. When it doesn't go away, should I try to devote hours to being with it? Sometimes I'll sit with a feeling for a while, but then I'll have to go to work or attend to other everyday matters. I can still allow the feeling, but it is more difficult to concentrate and fully allow it.

Could you please share your thoughts on how to approach this. I feel like I understand the practice of being with feelings, but I don't understand the timing.

And here is my response:

Sorry to take a while to get back to you. It sounds like you are definitely getting the hang of being with feelings. As for how long to stay with a feeling, there really is no formula for how long and also no formula for what happens when you do stay with a feeling longer. Every experience is unique. Sometimes the energy of the feeling releases or dissolves and a deeper level or dimension of your inner experience is revealed. Sometimes you find another feeling under the one that is releasing. Sometimes you find a more essential quality like peace or joy. And sometimes you just stay with a feeling for a while and not much seems to happen. In every case, it is working perfectly. There is a deep intelligence within your Being that knows exactly how to unfold each experience. The more you can just stay with whatever happens and let go of any ideas or expectations about what is supposed to happen, the more this inner intelligence can work.

And again there is no formula for how long. I would invite you to just follow whatever feels true to you in terms of how long to do this process, and how to balance it with the other demands of your life. Remember the truth is whatever opens your heart and expands your sense of "self" and also whatever quiets your mind. So you can just notice if it feels true to stay with a feeling a little longer, or if it feels truer right now to move on to another activity. And of course it is fine to continue to keep some awareness on the inner experiences even as you engage in other activities.

Finally I would add that the real value of staying with feelings is not actually the results you experience. Ultimately the point of being with feelings is not to resolve or get rid of uncomfortable feelings even though this kind of open-ended inquiry can have this effect. The real point of this practice of awareness is to realize the powerful mystery of awareness itself. What is this that can notice and observe a feeling? What does it mean that you can choose to stay with a feeling? What is awareness? What is aware?

In some ways spiritual seekers are so busy digging for some imagined buried treasure that they do not notice that the shovel they are digging with (awareness) is covered with large diamonds and rubies. The treasure is already in your hands! What a miracle this attention is that you use to stay with a feeling. Do not overlook the immense value of the awareness that is already here in every moment.

Download Nothing Personal Today!
nothing personalBefore you leave, be sure to get your free ebook copy of
Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self by Nirmala.

Nothing Personal leads you to the experience of your true nature and helps you explore its depth. Through exposition, questions and dialogues, it brings you to a place of realization of the Truth: you are the spacious Awareness in which everything appears.


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