When I began a meditation practice, it was because I had been hearing from so many people that I respected that it might benefit me.

I think they were right. While my practice is nowhere near advanced, I believe that it has helped me in many ways.

We get caught up in so many different versions of what we should be doing with our time. Our own expectations. Other's expectations. Invented expectations that no one (including ourselves) really has for us. We always feel like we should be doing something. Is there a time when we should be doing absolutely nothing?

The whole idea of just breathing and just being is pretty profound. Add the idea of mindfulness, and there is enough substance for some people to devote their lives to this practice. People have been doing it for thousands of years.

I've been doing it for a few years, and I'm not very good at it. Ideally, I'd like to image myself as a tree. My sit bones are the roots that connect me to the Earth. Unmoving, I just breathe. I don't think. I don't move besides a sway. I don't see. I just be.

Easier said than done.

Like many people who meditate, I don't know if I'm doing it right. In the beginning of my practice, I just went through the motions, and did what people instructed me to do.

As I've been told, failing through it is one of the only ways that beginners become intermediates, and intermediates become calm.

It's a meditation 'practice', not a meditation 'perfect'.

My journey began with a trip to the local meditation center to learn a bit about it. On that first night, after I was instructed to sit this way, put my hands here, place my tongue on the roof of my mouth, relax my shoulders and so on, I really just sat there thinking about not thinking.

"I'm thinking. I'm not supposed to be thinking." I said to myself. "Okay. I'm not going to think anymore. Not thinking. No thinking." I was really just thinking intensely about not thinking.

After I studied and learned a little bit, I narrowed my thoughts to be able to sometimes shift all of my focus to my breath.

Still, such thoughts are still thoughts, and if I wanted to clear my head completely, I would need to take my focus off my breath and just let it be.

This is where forgiveness comes into the picture. Every time I have a thought, followed by a self-admonition to stop having thoughts because the point of meditation is a clear mind, I needed to forgive myself. As if the thought I had were a transgression, forgiveness had to be there so that I could clear my head of my failure, and move forward to a quiet mind.

Without the forgiveness aspect, I would be constantly deriding myself for my inability to clear my mind, and self imposed shame does not seem like something that is going to help to carry me closer to Zen.

Distraction is a part of meditation. The world still turns, and we can happily quiet our minds within that turning

I've been instructed to treat the wayward thoughts that come into my awareness as if they were bubbles floating by. I've had the thought of work or wife or wants or whatever; now, I can just let it float by me, and float away.

The game becomes one of not keeping the thoughts away, but how quickly and with how little attachment can I let them go? If it just floats by and I'm back to blankly breathing, bully for me. If I focus on it, I try to put it in a bubble and then let it float away. Sometimes, I feel at peace. Other times, not so much.

Getting upset, beating myself up about not being able to meditate effectively is not what it's about. The faster I can forgive myself, the faster I can return to striving for a peaceful mind, a healthy soul, and a happy heart.

I have to forgive myself for skipping to get back to my practice

Did you ever decide that you would do something, and you start, then falter, and then just kind of give up altogether because you've lost momentum? Yeah, me too. To get back to my practice after going to bed without meditating, the next morning I have to forgive myself, and then give it another go. Streaks are nice, but we aren't going for streaks. We are going for happiness, so even if I take weeks off because of whatever excuse I make up, if I believe that meditation will increase my happiness, my best bet is to move past what I should have done in the past and focus on what I can do in the moment. Regardless of past deeds, I always have the chance to be mindful now, and forgiveness in this case could be a lot like 'forget'ness. Forget yesterday. Sit down and meditate.