By Tamara Levitt
As you would guess, being Head of Content at Calm, I’m passionate about meditation. I’ll meditate anywhere - at airports, on buses, in waiting rooms… But nothing beats meditating by the lake at my family’s cottage in Canada, which I visit just a few times each year.
Fall, winter, and spring, I dream of returning. Most especially, I dream of waking up early, walking out onto the dock and meditating with the tranquil sound of the calm water lapping in the background.
Recently, on my first visit in a year, I had a chance to do just that. I had 75 minutes before my guests arrived – Just enough time to fit in an hour-long practice. I grabbed my cushion, walked down the dock, and began meditating, enjoying the soothing sound of the water, and wind blowing through the trees.
5-minutes later, the serene sounds of the morning lake were drowned out by roar of lawnmowers. I should clarify, our cottage is on a large lot with 11 other cottages. It takes a full hour for the three booming industrial sized lawnmowers to complete the job, which meant, my entire practice would be disrupted.
The soundtrack of the tranquil sounds of nature became a distant memory. Irritation set in, then disappointment, as I realized I had two choices: I could either continue my practice with the lawnmowers blaring in the background, or I could skip it altogether.
I’d been looking forward to this morning for an entire year. There was no way I was going to forfeit my practice.
So I stayed. And as the lawnmowers neared the water, their roaring drone got louder and louder. But I chose not to hear it as disruption. I made efforts to hear the sound as sound, without identifying it as good or bad. I didn’t focus on it with irritation the way I had earlier. Instead, I allowed it to be part of the background, responding to it the same way I would the sound of water, or airplanes above, or people talking nearby. I let everything be. And I continued with my practice, which, incidentally, ended up being a blissful one.
Part of the reason why it’s so important to practice meditating in imperfect conditions on occasion, is because it’s training for real life.
Just like there aren’t always perfect conditions to meditate, there aren’t always perfect conditions in daily life. People don’t act the way we want them to. Things don’t show up the way we’d like. Life is constantly disrupting our plans.
On our wedding day it rains. Does that mean we fall apart and feel irritation all day? Or does it mean we move inside and let go of our original plan for an outside wedding so we can enjoy the day?
Or perhaps we have this idea that we’ll be married by a certain age. It doesn’t always happen, so can we find acceptance and joy in being single?
It’s impossible to experience joy when we’re resisting life.
So in order to not let imperfect conditions hinder our happiness, we want to develop resilience to them.
We want to become less bothered, less irritated, and accept that which we can’t control. This is a huge part of what meditation is about - learning how to accept all circumstances, perfect and imperfect. And considering how rare it is that things go perfectly in life, it’s a pretty good skill to have.
So the next time you start your practice and the conditions aren’t perfect, let’s say, your kids are too loud, or a neighbor is playing music, or there’s discomfort in your body, as you sit, see if you can practice staying. Make efforts to accept your present circumstances. It may be challenging but what you’re doing is strengthening your resilience, and learning to find peace within life’s imperfections.
I’ll leave you with these relevant words of wisdom by Michael J Fox:
“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”
So let be and let go. Whenever possible.