Writer: Erin Lee
They say practice makes perfect, but when it comes to mindfulness meditation, there is no "perfect practice".
When we sit down to meditate, we may hope for a smooth experience, in which we are blissfully relaxed, the body feels light, and the mind is crystal clear.
However, reality is many a time quite different. As we continue to meditate, we will come to realise that our practice will almost never go the way we want.
We will encounter difficulty and obstacles - a scattered or chaotic mind, unwanted aches and pain in the body, interruptions coming from outside, criticisms arising from inside...
Even when the light and peaceful moments do arrive, they never stay, simply because our experience is always changing, all the time.
We might become disappointed by this dissonance between expectation and reality, and begin to lose motivation to continue practicing.
And so we have to let go of the notion of having a perfect practice, and gravitate towards and being at ease with our practice instead.
We remind ourselves that this is not about doing it well or doing it right, but rather a practice of non-doing, of just being with what is.
We consciously cultivate non-judgemental awareness, a knowing that doesn't need to conclude whether our meditation today was a good or bad one.
We invite gentleness and curiosity to every moment of the experience, especially when our practice doesn't go the way we want.
Most importantly, rather than striving for a particular kind of meditation experience, we learn to just notice our experience from moment to moment - discomfort, flaws, imperfections, and all.
Except we don't really call them "imperfections". We see them as opportunities for growth.
When we practice mindfulness of breathing, for example, we not only pay attention to the breath, we also attend to the moments when we lose track of the breath, and learn to bring ourselves back over and over again.
As we go deeper into our practice, we observe the subtlest of reactivity that arises from within as we manage the wandering mind, and we skilfully wait for these difficult moments to pass, returning ourselves to equanimity.
We know that each moment of calmly staying with what we don't want, is also successfully letting go of what we do want but can't have.
And so, expect no perfection in your practice. Don't obsess over "imperfections" either.
There is only mindfulness practice, and mindfulness of practice.