Normally when I practice meditation, my experience consists of trying to reign in swarming thoughts and to focus on the breath. It often takes some time for the swarm to settle down and for my mind to quiet a bit. Until that happens – and it doesn’t always happen – my practice is a continuous process of noticing, remembering, and redirecting. Occasionally during this process I have realizations that help me to understand myself a little better.
Recently, as I sit to practice, I have noticed just how sticky my mind can be. Rather than simply acknowledging and releasing whatever thought is buzzing by, I often become attached to it, particularly if I feel there is a problem to be solved.
I have long approached life as a series of problems to be solved. Like a lost character from Adam Hargreaves’ Little Miss and Mr. Man series of children’s books, I am drawn to problems like a turkey to glitter. This helps to orient me and gives me purpose. At the same time, my Little Miss Fix-it mind tells me that everything can be improved upon, nothing is ever quite good enough, “better” is always a possibility.
I don’t have anything against self-improvement. In many ways, this approach has helped me accomplish a great deal. However, the belief that nothing is ever enough is particularly dangerous, and it feeds the false belief that goodness, perfection, and wholeness are things that reside somewhere off in an unspecified and distant future. At the same time, this problem-solving mentality can be a very expensive distraction in terms of time and energy.
Last week I introduced the concept of practicing imperfection. In doing so, I am playing with the idea that things, including myself, are fine just as they are. They are good enough, right now.
Similarly, during sitting practice, when my mind sticks to various problems and attempts to solve them, I send some love to my inner Little Miss Fix-it. Then I practice letting go, refocus my attention on the breath, and remind myself that, right now, I am meditating.