I’ve grown accustom to not looking at the time while meditating. Occasionally the alarm I use either has the sound set to mute or something malfunctions. During a long, unintentional 90 minute meditation today I was faced again with the fact that that the longer one goes, the more intense and difficult it becomes to stay focused. Balance and calm eventually gives way to tension, intense irritation, and impulses to stop meditating in favor of whatever compelling thoughts take over.
What I found was that getting through such storms of emotions became easier by changing focus on the body and its sensations to focusing on the breath instead. Goenkaji mentions this approach to dealing with such distractions in his discourses several times.
Once things calmed down I went back to the body scans. Much like walking over hot coals, such achievements provide a sense of power and accomplishment in mental discipline that carry into other areas of life. Unlike walking on hot coals, there’s very little chance of getting hurt!
Interesting quote attributed to the Buddha:
I have love for the footless,
for the bipeds too I have love;
I have love for those with four feet,
for the many-footed I have love.
It appears to me to mean we should carry on with love and compassion for all beings regardless of their predicaments, attributes, or handicaps.
Our neighbor’s dog recently began to grow up from a puppy into a dog. As a result, he has begun barking more. This affects me with mild annoyance, even though I like the dog, and my neighbor. It’s an alerting bark, one of attentiveness or perhaps apprehensiveness for not getting enough attention, but not one of fear or hostility like some other dog’s barks.
Finding compassion and love for the beings that do things that affect us negatively and that we can’t always avoid is a challenge to be sure. Especially when it affects my ability to meditate — the very weapon I have against giving in to my own intolerance.
Talking to the neighbor may help, but I instead resorted to invoking the power of technology in the form of an ultrasonic device that chirps a high-frequency pitch when the dog’s number of barks and volume threshold surpass the parameters I set. I love this device. It keeps noise to a minimum, but I wonder how much better a mediator or person I would be if I could simply learn to accept the annoyance and not let it affect me. Have I missed out on achieving a new level of skill by using simple Pavlovian tricks to cure the symptom instead of my own problem of intolerance?
I’ll be interested in hearing your comments and opinions on this.