When I learned how to meditate, one of the most surprising guidelines I received – from all the teachers I followed, no matter their tradition or lineage – was to always “get back to the task at hand”. Which meant that, if my mind would slip away during meditation, all I had to do was to restart the process, without any feelings of guilt or frustration. Your mind is flying away and you lost the object of your focus? No problem, just get back to it. Restart the process.
In time, I started to understand why I found it surprising. My previous conditioning made me believe that every activity we engage in must have some sort of performance scale attached to it. When you do something, you have to do it “right”, you have to be really good at it. Even more, you have to be better than everyone else (or at least better than majority), which meant you had to compare your performance to other people performance and see where you are.
So, I believed that if my mind slips away during meditation, I simply wasn’t good enough at it and I have to strive more. Or I’m not as good as other people, or not as good as I should be, so the solution was to “improve my meditation process” somehow.
It took me some time to understand that the goal of meditation wasn’t to become the best meditator in the world, but to put more order into your own mind. There wasn’t any contest, it was all about gaining a bit more clarity, about understanding my own auto-pilot reactions and how I can steer away from destructive behavioral patterns.
But my overachiever mindset made me want to conquer the first spot in the meditators contest.
You can’t be the first at being present, there’s no such thing. Presence and awareness don’t have a billboard with the top meditators there. It just doesn’t work like that.
Most of the time, the things that we have to do are really simple. Like in this case, all we had to do in order to experience more clarity is to constantly get back to the task at hand. Nothing more. Just do this simple thing over and over and over and over again.
But, you know, overcomplicating our lives makes us feel special and important.
So now that you know what you have to do, go back to whatever you’ve been doing before reading this article. It’s that simple.