By Leo Babauta

Let’s imagine that you’ve been trying to do the Grounded Challenge and practicing our first method of mindfulness with your difficulties (or maybe you’ve evolved your method) … but you’ve run up against some problems.

That is absolutely perfect.

The short guide to how to deal with any difficulties you’ve had in this Grounded Challenge is this: practice with that difficulty.

What I’d like you to do is to look at any troubles you’ve had in this challenge … and see the trouble as your teacher.

Any trouble you’ve had is exactly what you need to practice with right now. It’s the perfect practice material, because it’s a difficulty (and thinking pattern) that shows up in other areas of your life as well.

Let’s walk through some examples:

  1. You missed some of the practice days. This is not a problem. Just start again. The problem comes when we judge ourselves, beat ourselves up, complain about missing it, try to avoid thinking about it, rationalize, put off starting again. Actually these aren’t problems either — they’re opportunities to practice. If you missed a day or four, and any of this is coming up for you (wanting to procrastinate/avoid, beating yourself up or feeling bad, etc.) … just practice with those feelings. Feel the guilt. Feel the urge to avoid. Feel the feelings of inadequacy. Stay with these feelings. Bring curiosity to them. Bring some friendliness to the feelings. All of a sudden, you’re practicing again!
  2. You are doing the practice but it’s hard. You’re facing your difficult feeling, dropping into the body, staying with it … but it’s really uncomfortable. You don’t want to do it. You’re complaining about it, wanting to quit. Perfect! Practice with the resistance, face the feeling of not wanting to do it, not liking it, wanting to give up. Face the discomfort. Be with it. Find a small degree of curiosity about it. Smile at it, just for a moment. See if you can be grateful for it.
  3. You’re not doing the practice because it’s too hard. Maybe you tried facing the difficulties that come up for you, but it was too hard, so you’ve been avoiding it. Practice with that: what does it feel like to want to avoid? What does it feel like after you’ve avoided? Notice the feeling of not wanting to, of not liking. Be with it, be gentle with it, be curious about it. Woah, you’ve just been practicing!
  4. You are confused by the practice. You’re doing the practice but not sure you’re doing it right, and feel a lot of confusion. You don’t like to feel confused, it’s unpleasant! Perfect, practice with that: what does it feel like to be in this state of confusion? To not like the feeling of confusion? Drop into the body and feel confusion as a sensation. Be curious about it. Be friendly, gentle and open with it. Stay with the feeling of confusion and not liking confusion for a little bit.
  5. You get into a weird state in the practice. This is similar to the confusion problem above, but instead of confusion, it’s just a weird feeling. Or some feeling you really don’t enjoy. Practice with it! Just like with the confusion. It’s exactly how you should feel right now, and it’s your teacher.
  6. Pain is surfacing. You have painful emotions in your body, and dropping into the body is surfacing pain. If it’s too overwhelming, try a movement-based mindfulness practice instead, where you’re walking or doing yoga and focusing on mindfulness of the moving itself. You might not be ready to fully feel the pain, to be honest. But if you feel you can handle it, allow yourself to open up to the pain, in small doses. Notice how it feels, be gentle and curious, and give yourself compassion. You might only be able to do this for a few seconds at a time. That’s completely OK. There’s no right way to do this. Note: It can be helpful to have a trained therapist or meditation teacher to guide you if you have severe trauma.
  7. You feel like you’re failing. You’re doing it wrong, and feel like you’re failing at it. Perfect! This feeling like you’re failing, feeling of doing it wrong, is showing up in other areas of your life as well. This feeling is your teacher — what can you learn about it? Can you face it and feel it? Can you notice how failing feels in your body? Can you be curious and then compassionate?
  8. You feel like other people are doing it better. In other words, you’re feeling inadequate. This is a wonderful teacher. Feel the feeling of inadequacy. Be with it. Be friendly with it. Love it. Change your way of being with this feeling, because if you’re loving towards it, you’re loving towards yourself. (Sidenote: you’re not inadequate, in any way whatsoever.)
  9. You feel bad because you’re judging yourself. You’ve been judging yourself for doing this wrong, for feeling inadequate, for quitting, for missing a day, for not being consistent. You’re even judging yourself for judging yourself. Perfect! This judging shows up everywhere in your life. Practice with it, and you’ll change your relationship with your tendency to judge. Open up to it, dropping into the feeling, finding curiosity about it, friendliness, compassion. Can you be grateful for the feeling of judging?

Anything that comes up for you is material for practice. It’s your teacher. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn and practice and get good at something that shows up everywhere in your life.

I’m so happy you’re practicing with me.

Also read: Choosing an Alternative to Getting Hooked