Years ago I heard a minister say something startling. He was talking about the uncomfortable times; times of suffering that all of us face sooner or later. We find ourselves in circumstances or situations we would rather escape. And usually we complain or perhaps even whine. He paused and looked at the gathering of people around him and simply said, “just bear it.”
One of the greatest gifts I’ve received from the practice of meditation and silent prayer is the realization that everything has a beginning and an end. When what is transpiring between the beginning and the end is uncomfortable, it can be born. We can endure.
One of the first instructions I give when teaching meditation is that you must use a timer. When we sit to meditate or pray, it is for a definite time. We set the timer for 20 minutes (or whatever time you choose) and then begin, confident that at some point the timer will go off. In the meantime, we sit.
People often say to me, “I’ve tried meditation but I just can’t do it.” That always puzzles me. It is usually followed by the declaration that “my mind just won’t get quiet.” The implication is that if my mind won’t quiet down, I won’t bear the mental noise. I will not sit with myself and listen to my chattering brain. I could understand if it meant I was required to sit there interminably, but that is never the case. I only sit UTTGO—until the timer goes off.
I have been meditating for many years, and yes, my mind has, with practice, been trained to settle down more often than not. But there are still days when from the moment the timer starts until it chimes, my mind races. I can bear it because I know it will end—the timer will eventually chime. Years of experience have taught me that I cannot judge the efficacy of my meditation by how I feel during the meditation. Twenty minutes of a racing mind is every bit as valuable as twenty minutes of bliss.
The same is true of our daily lives. Times of turmoil are every bit as valuable as times of equanimity and composure, if we will sit with ourselves in faith. I now have a much deeper sense that when life feels uncomfortable I can prevail, I can endure, I can wait patiently (perhaps I should say more patiently) until the situation ends…until the timer goes off.