Sometimes when I sit down to meditate, the urge to get up immediately is so strong that I actually get up. After the first few minutes the feeling is so intense that my body resists it and I get restless. Ever felt that way?
It’s a bit easier now that I meditate consistently, but not always. Sometimes I still feel like an unstoppable force inside wants me to stop.
I felt this way when I was younger too, when I played piano for over a decade. My after-school practice was playing scales and chords, and even when I got more serious about practicing and loved playing every day, within 15 minutes I’d feel that same feeling of restlessness. Sometimes I’d continue, but sometimes I’d stop.
I told my spiritual mentor, Rev. Tom Kelly, a few years ago. “I just can’t meditate and get into the groove. It feels so hard. I feel restless all the time and after a certain period of time.”
“Are you doing it consistently?” He asked.
“Yeah, but I don’t think I’m feeling the benefits of it. I’m not feeling the impact or feeling connected.”
What he said next I remember every single day. Every day. A monk for 40 years, Tom said,
“Well when you feel the urge to get up the most next time, when you feel that restless feeling and like you can’t take it any longer, sit.”
Ugh. I was irritated. I thought he’d give me a meditation trick or some new thought to reframe my meditation.
“The key is staying. When you wanna bolt, wait an extra two minutes. Keep sitting and keep connecting. Breathe through your urge to move. Because those extra two minutes, Ishita, THAT’S where you make the most progress. That’s where you’ll connect and feel the impact.
Irritated, I did it anyway.
I did it groaning and grunting and for a long time, it was still very hard.
But I kept doing it.
Until one day I did it willingly and felt what I thought Rev. Kelly had wanted me to feel all along: freedom.
After lots and lots of extra two minutes over many months, I started to realize I was feeling more connected. I did see the impact of my practice in my life.
I felt FREE.
Consistently taking that time when I felt the most resistance was the trick – each time I did I broke the barrier that came up for me again and again – in piano, in meditation, in exercise; I kept encountering my “wall” and it said loudly, “This is hard. And painful. You can’t handle it and you’ll FAIL again.”
I knew the barrier too well to fight it. So many times I’d come up against it, felt the restlessness, and run. But months of staying longer didn’t teach me to meditate better, it taught me to stay better – to stay in fear, to stay in discomfort, without running away.
“Two minutes is what matters, Ishita.”
He’d given me a total life hack and I didn’t even know it.
I think about my extra two minutes every day. This morning too.
I had to learn the way out was through. And it’s given me the capacity and courage to endure more than 15 minute workouts or piano chords. I’ve gone through business failure, heartbreak, letting go of relationships, saying NO, loss, rejection, judgement.
Everything worth it in life requires learning this lesson; that the time when you most want to get up from the bench, close down shop or leap off the treadmill because you can’t take it anymore, is where the magic is. Those few minutes are where real progress and change happen. Those are the moments of true communion, connection, and true practice.
It’s not willpower. Not force.
It’s KNOWING that you have the courage to go beyond your wall of resistance. Choosing to stay breaks down that wall.
Let’s stop phoning it in “we tried as hard as we could.”
Let’s try harder. Not because we’re forcing ourselves, but because we can.
Your wall is not your metric. Your defining moment is not your wall, but the moment you hit your wall and choose to see beyond it.
That’s when your practice counts. That’s when you feel connected in meditation. That’s when you see results in your life.
You want more out of your life?
Stay the extra time. Keep coming back when you most feel like shutting down or have had enough. Practice when it feels like a huge waste of time and you have more important things to do.
You don’t. Prioritizing your capacity to go further is the best remedy for a life gone sideways or things that haven’t worked out. I’ve taken the wrong path more times than I can count; the extra two minutes rights your course.
Put it in your toolbox and never take it out.
Today, and the rest of this week, take the time to stay with it when you’re faced with something hard. Breathe, connect, and just stay, without stressing out about the staying. Whether you enjoy it or you hate it, they’re both right.