“Good morning, gentlemen. It's good to see everyone. Let's do five minutes of meditation,” I said as I walked into my domestic violence group.
“Let's begin.” I set the timer on my phone.
As I closed my eyes, my hearing sharpened. With every breath, I absorbed the sounds around me. I could hear shuffling in the room as each man settled into the exercise. Cars rolled by outside in the distance. My breathing coalesced with the other men's breathing like factory noise. Feet shifted on the floor, both in the room and outside as movement asserted itself on my awareness. Conversations beyond the walls disrupted quietude. I felt like every thought and feeling made noise entering and exiting my mind.
Gently, I herded my attention back to my breathing. Someone coughed. The wind blew, windows rattled, and dry leaves rustled outside. As my mind wandered I heard different sounds. I reminded myself to breathe. More sounds. I surrendered with each breath. Buzz, buzz, buzz brought the exercise to an end. What seemed like an eternity ended in five minutes.
“What was that like for you? What did you notice?" I asked the group.
“I felt sleepy,” one man replied, embarrassed. Another man said, “I don't like meditation, it doesn't do anything.”
“You felt sleepy? What does that tell you?” I asked.
His eyes rolled up as he searched for an answer.
“You're tired,” another man replied.
“What would you like it to do?” I asked the other man.
“I would like to clear my mind and relax,” he said.
“I see. You would like to clear your mind and relax. That's interesting. So, because you can't clear your mind and relax, you feel like meditation has no value? What about learning how to sit with what's on your mind? What about noticing your thoughts and feelings, without clinging, or acting on them? Would that be valuable?” I asked.
The men mumbled.
“Meditation is not to clear your mind but, to teach you how to sit with and accept what's on your mind. The object is to notice and not cling to your thoughts. Relaxation is a byproduct.” I said.”
“What did you hear while meditating?” I asked.
“I heard cars,” one man said.
Another said, “People talking outside.”
“Yes, but what about internal sounds?” I asked.
“I kept trying to keep my mind from wandering,” a man said.
“How did you bring yourself back to your breathing?” I asked.
“I forced myself,” he replied.
“Our minds and bodies wander both during meditation and in real life. Be gentle with yourself and come back to your breathing.” I replied, trying not to sound like a monk from the TV show Kung Fu.”
“Did you notice the sounds? It got quite noisy. There were two kinds of sounds, external and internal. Did anyone notice their powerlessness over the noise? Lack of control is a type of suffering. Often, we struggle against our vulnerability and we try to fix it only to make our situation worse. Think about the reason you're here. A thought or feeling you could not tolerate compelled you to act which initiated a negative chain reaction. That's what meditation is for, to help you prevent acting on every thought or feeling you have.” I explained.
I said, “The word “compassion” means to sit with suffering. Not to make suffering go away, but to simply sit with it. Compassion also leads to happiness. The more you get in touch with your own suffering and the suffering of others, the happier you will be. Keep practicing.”