There is no doubt about it that meditation is hard work. But then so is being fit, learning a language or anything else that is worth doing.
The hard thing is not sitting down to do it everyday. That becomes a habit eventually. Although that can be part of it. What makes it hard is holding the mind to no thing apart from the breath and holding ones attention singly in front.
Another thing that makes it hard is keeping it dynamic. The arising of thoughts is an interesting phenomenon. For me often the thoughts that do arise are issues that need dealing with and often that means letting go of something that’s been pushed under for some time. I keep separate sessions for that though.
My morning meditation is holding the mind still on the breath and evening is letting go It’s quite a useful way to end the day. And importantly it provides an opportunity to deal with the thoughts that arise in the morning .
U.G. Krishnamurti, not to be confused with Jiddu Krishnamurti, is not into meditation it seems. And he points towards a childhood experience.
“My grandfather used to meditate. (He is dead, and I don’t want to say anything bad about him.) He used to meditate for one or two hours in a separate meditation room. One day a little baby, one and a half or two years old, started crying for some reason. That chap came down and started beating the child, and the child almost turned blue — and this man, you see, meditating two hours every day. ‘Look! What is this he has done?’ That posed a sort of (I don’t want to use the psychological term, but there is no escape from it) a traumatic experience — ‘There must be something funny about the whole business of meditation. Their lives are shallow, empty. They talk marvelously, express things in a very beautiful way, but what about their lives? There is this neurotic fear in their lives: they say something, but it doesn’t operate in their lives. What is wrong with them?’ — not that I sat in judgement over those people.”
— (Krishnamurti, U.G.; Arms, Rodney, Ed. [Third Edition, 2001]. Mystique of Enlightenment. Part One. Retrieved April 18, 2005 from )
It is obvious that grandfather wasn’t practising mindfulness. I’m not sure what kind of meditation he was doing. There are afterall many kinds, but it’s unlikely it was a mindfulness meditation. It sounds like he was using meditation as an escape.
They say Zen is the hardest kind of meditation. I’m not sure about that, but there is no doubt that the labour of this kind of meditation, which is not any kind of escape because it demands a participation in the world that is well… deeply present, produces compassionate mindfulness. And occasionally I get asked by people whether I think it would benefit them.
The last thing that makes meditation, the kind we practise, hard is grounding it in everyday life. But that’s the point isn’t it. It’s not just that meditation is the practise, but so is being incarnated into this threefold vehicle of body, feelings and mind.