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 fellow Buddhist blogger 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 nonsense 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 in 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, among other places. I also often 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.
Meditation @ Flickr