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Restlessness is the ego’s attempt to detour the seeker from sitting and touching true nature. Countless times the practitioner sits upon their cushion and immediately an explosion of thoughts appear; our mind has unleashed every distraction to convince us to arise and busy ourselves with the nonsense of some unimportant task, simply a continued attempt to capture our attention.

The phrase “I can’t sit still long enough to meditate” is common when the practice is suggested. As I gently explain to the men I sponsor; there are 24 hours to each day please sit for 10 minutes and just be mindful of your breath, the mind will wander, keep returning back to the breath, simply keep returning again and again.

Restlessness is common in the practice of meditation, its appearance not only happens in the daily practice upon arising each morning; but also makes its entrance when sitting on a retreat. I have been on many 3-10 day retreats; after I arrive and check in, I’m confronted with the fact I’m here without my normal distractions and the mind game starts. The multitude of thoughts start dropping in for their visit, convincing me I have to leave. This onslaught of restlessness can last a few hours or even the first day or two.
Whether it happens during a retreat of 10 days or your morning meditation of 20 minutes; our only defense is to allow the restlessness to arise and acknowledge it. The truth is you can’t be present and feel restless at the same time. When allowing any feeling or thought to arise we are simply being present with it; this can immediately bring us back to the moment. We breathe in and breathe out, suddenly the restlessness dissolves into peace; the invasions of thoughts are drowned out by the roar of silence and we become lost in the moment. The projection of the impossibility of sitting for 10 minutes turns into 30 minutes of just being present.

To become lost in the moment is to be lost in love; the only way this happens is to sit through what ego will continue to assault us with, determined to trip us up on the spiritual path. With steadfastness I stay with my breath and suddenly stumble into the moment; the paradox is then revealed, becoming lost in the moment is always a gift.
The practice of mindfulness encourages us to think only of this moment. It introduces us to the space called here and the time called now. We meet each moment exactly as it is. In this way we can become intimate with all that arises within. The phenomenon of being present is the result of sitting through the restlessness and purposely paying attention to what life offers each moment. I would love to sit with you.

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Tom Catton has been in long-term recovery since October 20, 1971. His story appears in a twelve-step fellowship text with more than seven million copies in circulation around the world. Tom is invited to speak in the US and internationally several times a year at twelve-step conventions in front of audiences ranging from 500 to 10,000 people. Tom is author of The Mindful Addict: A Memoir of the Awakening of a Spirit.

He has been taking twelve-step meetings into the prison system in Hawaii since 1984. He has been active in service positions over the years, including serving on a committee that met for over three years to write a recovery text for a twelve-step fellowship. Tom is author of The Mindful Addict: A Memoir of the Awakening of a Spirit. Tom is on the advisory board of the Buddhist Recovery Network, and is also trained in Tibetan singing bowl therapy. He leads a Buddhist recovery meditation group that meets twice a month in Hawaii. Trained in MBSR Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction; also initiated in several schools of meditation and has practiced daily for 40 years.

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