Today, I send into your meditation the plateau. Many a dieter knows the feeling. Early efforts in their weight loss program brought swift and great results, but deeper into the discipline of eating and exercising they hit a plateau and they feel as if their progress has stagnated. They lose faith and “fall off the wagon” so to speak, believing their set goal is now unattainable.
Meditators can do this, too. Make a commitment to daily sitting, have incredible experiences at the start, see great results, but then after a time it just feels routine. As if we sit day in and day out and we feel like we’re making no meaningful progress.
We remind ourselves that there are no goals in meditation or seeking. It’s not about chasing the butterfly but remaining still that it might alight upon our hand instead and other such notions of stillness. Lovely thoughts, of course, but when we see ourselves engaging in behaviors we’d hoped meditation would’ve rid us of, such as, easy impatience or irritation, we can feel we’ve hit some weird peace plateau. We’re calmer, more peaceful, but there’s a boundary of some sort we can’t get past. We find ourselves still with self-critical thoughts or battling a vague sense of unworthiness.
We start looking for other strategies, believing meditation has taken us as far as we can go. Or we come to believe this is just as good as it gets, maybe.
Plateaus offer us two very powerful opportunities. The first is the state of adjustment. We see plateaus as stagnation, when really they are points of adjusting to our newer self. Just like hiking a mountain where the legs dearly love straightaways where they can recoup before the next climb, plateaus offer us the same thing. A chance to regroup and adjust to this newer version of us that has been evolving within our practice.
And too, as losing weight too fast can cause huge setbacks, we need time to adjust to new states of being. Spots on the path where we can integrate all that we’ve absorbed in our practice, before moving on. These periods of integration and adjustment help us advance our practice. It’s those, seemingly uneventful, straightaways that allow us to garner new energy for the next leg of our spiritual journey.
Second, plateaus frequently have important gifts we have yet to see. The wind has vacated our sails and we sit in calm water, because there is something here. Something important for us to grasp, learn, take in, and/or understand in some fashion. This dead calm in the midst of our journey is a gift. The plateau has a deep and meaningful purpose. There is a gem of understanding waiting for us to become mindful to that is right in front of us. Now is the time to double down and really sink into our practice.
Rarely is what we’re needing to observe hard to find. Usually, it’s staring us right in the face; requiring little more than true mindfulness. What are we thinking about day to day, minute to minute? What emotions are lingering either clearly like a constant irritation or quieter, behind our general thinking, like sorrow? How are we behaving? How do we treat ourselves and others? What are our complaints really about? What worries hold sway?
If we spend time mindfully watching ourselves in the same detached way we sit, we will often find nuggets of awareness that have become as Story Water’s refers to as ‘wallpaper’. Stuff we’ve been thinking, feeling, doing for so long it’s simply become wallpaper in our lives. Things we tolerate within ourselves that aren’t serving us at all. To see them, we often need to be stuck in one spot, until we stop seeing the spot we’re in as familiar and begin to see it with new eyes.
The plateau is here for us to stop moving, intentionally, and look more deeply at what is before us. It is not a block to progress, but rather a powerful indicator of a place we’ve brought ourselves to, to see, hear, feel, and heal something vital within us. The plateau is part of our progress, not outside of it.
So if we’ve lost our wind and the sails hang still, we need to take a deep breath. Put in check the seductive desire to complain about where we are. Take a seat and recommit to the journey we so wisely stepped onto however many moons ago. Either give ourselves permission, time and space to integrate all that we’ve developed within, to this point, or get curious and alert and look around. There are likely pearls of wisdom and understanding falling all about our feet. The moment we are in now, has everything we seek and will move us forward when the timing is right and the wind’s steady.
If you enjoyed this piece, I would be delighted if you checked out my book using this link or the link above. Namaste…