I have always advocated practicing meditation, but in this piece, I’d like to articulate a few times when meditation can be given a pause in extraordinary situations, especially by non-seasoned meditators. However, it is up to the meditator to consider them.
During times of grief
While dealing with intense grief or mourning a loss, a break can be given, especially if the practitioner is new or has been practicing intermittently. In times of grief or intense sorrow, the mind-state fluctuates a lot and hence meditation may be difficult. It may not be possible to control these fluctuations, if the mind is not yet trained to handle extreme emotional situations. With relation to dealing a grief situation, especially a raw grief, it is better to complete the process of grieving first. This can be done whichever way it comes naturally to an individual; through crying, through remembering, by keeping silence, by talking or any other. It is preferable to give the required time for emotions to re-set. When mind is clogged with memories and multiple thoughts, concentration, which is a precursor to a meditative experience, is not possible.
To process grief or a mourning- situation in a healthy manner, it is ultimately important to move the body, as heavy energy may restrict physical movements. Hence, it is advisable that instead of choosing to meditate in these times, one can move about, take walks in nature, reach out to uplifting friends or talk to someone with whom one feels ‘lighter’, It is also a good idea to move the body by dancing or exercising, or going for a run. Reaching out to a healthy method for healing is therapeutic and an important step to restore normalcy within the being.
Physical pain: In times of physical pain such as a joint or muscular ache, backache or any other form of pain, it is not possible to focus. Pain, that could be beyond the threshold of endurance, should be attended first, instead of ignoring and attempting to meditate. The body-mind coherence can only be experienced when body is in a state of comfort.
It is not a good idea to attempt meditation while dealing with a heightened state of emotion such as anger; as in, let’s say, when residual anger is left after a scuffle. Or in a situation that has put one in a state of momentary depression, or may be in a state of repression. Celebratory emotions too, can be distraction to a novice practitioner, in times such winning a trophy or a lottery.
An individual can also consider skipping meditation when in a hurry to reach somewhere (as long as it Is not a daily practice. Remember, we are considering extraordinary situation). Or when one is in a nervous state, let’s say on a day of an important interview or an exam. If the practitioner can handle intense emotions, it is good, but for those, who sit with fragmented or divided energy, they may end up feeling frustrated because mind is still wandering.
When one sits for meditation in a disturbed or an excited emotional, mental and/or physical state. (physical pain can trigger emotional pain), it is quite a task to still the mind if the practice is not enough.
In cases such as dealing with raw grief, if one decides to meditate then it is possible that many unprocessed emotions may get prised open. Amidst roller-coaster emotional ride, deep wounds can surface, disturbing an individual and may further descend one in a deeper sorrowful state or an agitated state. Whereas when practice continues in a neutral frame of mind, an individual is equipped to handle emotions far more effectively.
Meditation should be done with a sense of joy, in a state of gratitude and appreciation. For this, the mind-body state has to be prepared first. Breathing is a great tool to begin with. If one continuously practices breathing techniques, one can normalise the mind to sit for meditation. Else, an individual can always reach out to pray. Prayer is the best blessing available to mankind even if one decides to break from meditation temporarily.