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Life sentences

What’s the trickiest part of meditation?

The most common complaint is that it’s so difficult to find the time and even when you do there’s the constant interruptions…

Another classic excuse is that ‘there’s just this problem at work/with the kids/with my Oyster card/with my Gilbert O’Sullivan fan club membership etc etc.

You know…

But perhaps the trickiest part of a meditation is what to do once you do manage to get to you bench, cushion or chair.

Lets imagine that you have managed to put things on hold and he/she/it is not bothering you. The real difficulty lies in what happens when the sentences arrive.

A lot of traditions teach that one important stage of meditation is to know how to be with your thoughts and not react to them. Whatever comes up just let it pass through because once you get attached to a thought then it can derail you and then you might as well be at the sink ruminating over the burnt veg lasagne.

One of the chief culprits for this drifting away is the sentence. And what is our thinking but a whole bunch of life sentences.

The sentence is one of our fundamental units of meaning. It’s how we put things together, how the world is put together. Words on their own are ok, we can cope with these little blighters floating around but the sentence suggests a form of sense. It offers a direction, a purpose, a meaning. The sentence offers us a perspective. One of the ways we have this demonstrated to us is through scripting – our tendency to prepare for life’s events with a script – a series of sentences which prepare us for the world. Sentences tell us what we think. They seem to just roll out in front of us – “I’ll say that and she’ll say that and then…”

But however cool these sentences may be (and lets face it – it’s the scripted sentences that are the coolest not the panicky real ones!) they are dictated by the emotional context they are uttered in. Which takes us back to meditation.

When a sentence appears in a meditation it’s a sure sign that our equanimity has gone. Once a sentence starts wriggling into meaning up we can be sure than an emotion is just a few clicks away and once that happens we’re having a head-party. At this point we can either abandon the session (don’t – that’s no way to go folks!) or notice the sentence arriving, let it dissolve and resolve to begin again following the breath, counting, whatever method has worked.

Life sentences are fine. That’s what we all have – its just we don’t need to be reminded of them all the time.