It's Thursday and I am planning for my next few mindfulness drop-in sessions. I notice that I'm trying to make sure I include new practices alongside the core mindfulness practices of sitting and bodyscan meditation. I don't want people to get bored or to feel that the sessions are always the same. But why? After all, people happily attend exercise classes where they repeat the same moves week after week. In doing so they can feel their bodies changing, perhaps getting a little stronger or fitter each week.
Many seasoned practitioners of mindfulness also repeat the same one or two practices on a regular basis, perhaps for many years. These people have confidence in their practice and it's impact and feel no need for endless variety. This is the case for my practice, which is usually based on sitting with awareness of the body.
The truth is that a personal practice of mindfulness does not need to include a varied range of practices. As in exercise classes, repetition of the same routines will enhance good health in the mind as surely as physical movements will do so in the body. That's once we do the practices.
This is where the difference lies. Physical exercise is widely known and accepted to be good for us. We are doing something that we believe to be beneficial and may feel an immediate response to this. Meditation is less widespread. As it often involves sitting or lying still it is not something that we immediately associate with good health. On the contrary, many of us feel that doing so is somehow indulgent, lazy or pointless. Meditation does not fit into our usual way of thinking about how to be healthy.
We like to be busy and distracted. We like to feel that we are doing something. We do not like to feel bored. In starting and establishing a mindfulness practice all of these things will go against us. A varied session and interesting teachings and discussions can help to overcome this. They are crucial in helping us to keep up our motivation to meditate. They are like scaffolding around our practice of meditation. This interest may be crucial in helping us to continue meditating for long enough to notice a difference. Over time the reason that we meditate becomes much simpler. We do it because we feel the benefit.
Variety is not necessary for a good mindfulness practice. However it is very helpful for keeping our busy minds interested and engaged. For now it's a part of my sessions that's here to stay.