It’s been months since my last retreat, and the memories of what it was like have faded. I remember some events, some visions, some teachings, the food. I certainly remember sitting in meditation a lot, but the vividness and intensity of what really happened in those sits is long gone.

But I remember it well enough to know that this meditation at home feels different. On retreat, I was sitting with my own stuff — deeply engrained tendencies and thought patterns, lifelong themes — and I was untangling them, loosening them. Don’t get me wrong; it was painful and frustrating, but it felt like progress.

At home, though — especially by the time Friday rolls around — my mind is so much more boring than that. All the energy in there is consumed by the stuff I’m already spending time on — whatever domestic, social, financial, or professional micro-dramas happen to be swirling around. I mean, I count my blessings. I could be preoccupied with past trauma or present danger, but I am privileged to spend my endless mental rehearsals mostly on very dull things.

I’m not alone here. I frequently hear about this kind of boring, neurotic, repetitive thought pattern as people’s primary obstacle in meditation — even the reason they stop doing it. Clearly, this is our work, but what is there to work with here?

I don’t want to lob this one in with some “come back to your breath” shtick, because this bugs me a lot personally. How do we turn this endless repetition into forward progress?

Maybe the mind is rehashing these mundane thoughts because it’s looking for something — it missed something. Maybe when we’re only half present in a moment of our lives, the other half of it comes back to haunt us. Then the cure is not to let go of it on the cushion, but to pay more attention in the real situation.