Friday, November 11, 2011

The "Bad" Meditator

When I'm in the yoga world, it's not uncommon for someone to say, upon hearing about my Zen practice, "Oh, I'm terrible at meditation" or "It's too hard for me." Sometimes, I hear the same thing as well from newcomers on Sunday mornings down at the zen center.

However, as Algernon says in a recent post, there isn't really such a thing as a "bad meditator.

We are difficult because even when we are drawn to meditation, when we feel some tug to sit down and wash off our minds by doing some very simple awareness practice, holding hands with our pulse, ahhh the difficulty arises: "I'm a terrible meditator. My attention goes everywhere. My thinking is out of control."

Translation: I don't waaaaaannnnaaaaa!!

Sometimes it feels like going to the dentist, and sometimes it feels like soaking in a hot tub. But that isn't really the meditation - that's coming from you and me.

I think there are a lot of stories about what meditation "should" look like that cause people trouble. Such as the view that your mind should always be quiet, or that you are supposed to force all thoughts into silence. In addition, a lot of folks have conjured up an image of the perfect location and environment to do meditation in and then, when such a place isn't available, they decide they can't do it. Furthermore, perhaps they believe the bullshit folks like Zen teacher Brad Warner espouse, suggesting that zazen only happens in certain postures, and can't be "done in a chair." (I agree with Brad, by the way, that meditation is an embodied practice, and that thinking you can do it any old posture doesn't fly. I just don't get his anti-chair position, and in general, am an advocate for more flexibility around form.)

Beyond all of that, though, there's the strong sense of compartmentalization that many of us do with our spiritual lives. Meditation practice is often viewed as something done in such and such a place, time, and manner.

Whereas I have meditated on buses, park benches, in the middle of the Occupy protests, in public restrooms, amongst other places. I also frequently chant while bicycling, and for two winters in a row, did lovingkindness meditations walking in the skyway system in downtown St. Paul. Of course, I also practice in the places many consider "normal" - like on my meditation cushion at home, or in my zen center. But overall, I remain focused on breaking down walls and barriers - infusing practice into my everyday life, and everyday life into my practice.

I encourage you all to do the same. Happy Friday!

*Photo from the blog Meditation Matters.


Algernon said...

I love that picture.

Mandy_Fish said...

That cat is an awesome meditator.

Brikoleur said...

Our cat has her bed—which she never actually uses—in a corner of the room. It's like a miniature zabuton.

Lately, though, she goes and sits there when I sit on mine just across from it. My wife says she usually even faces the wall. I find that very encouraging.

Nathan said...

I have known a lot of cats who are "great" meditators :)

Anonymous said...

What has always peeved me are the "Yoga and Meditation" courses I stumble across. Yoga without meditation (self directed attention) is just exercise and meditation without yoga (abstract disembodied cognition) urns us into zombies. Yoga and meditation is tautology plain and simple. jai!

Spiritual Abhay said...

Very Nice post, I liked it. I will defiantly share it with my friends on Facebook. thanks again.