Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Meditation isn’t quite like other methods of self-improvement. It’s not as though you can say “Let’s meditate three times a week!” and then schedule it, show up a the gym to lift heavy things or run fast and far, and have it in any way be done.

Meditation is a mindset.

It is not mindlessness. Do not confuse meditation’s stillness with emptiness; many folks speak of the blank mind, but that is not the case, truly. More it is the mind empty of attachments, neither leading nor following, simply watching the stream of consciousness travel by.

Think of being on a bank and watching the river. You only see a portion of the river, but it is the river, all the same. You sometimes see a leaf on the river, but that doesn’t matter; the leaf travels on and the river still is. That is how the meditative mind works, as an observer to the river, with thoughts like leaves or twigs that appear, float along, and move out of view. They change your observation -- your mindset -- not at all.

Beginning meditation is not the same, exactly, as starting weight training or walking to Mordor. The way that success is measured is different, because meditation is a mindset and not a single activity. It’s not even, in the way of martial arts or yoga, an activity in process, but we can approach understanding the measure of meditation more readily if we think in terms of the activity of it.

Think of meditation as a song, and the practice of it as singing.

If you had a goal of being able to sing a song, then you might want to practice singing three times a week for fifteen minutes each time. Starting by singing for an hour once a week wouldn’t actually be as helpful as singing for a few minutes, maybe even in the grocery store or in the shower, throughout the week.

We don’t measure the success of the song by the volume of it, or by its duration, but instead it succeeds as a measure of its quality. Letting the song be exactly as it is can be difficult -- we are tempted to add trills to make it more interesting as we sing it, or to add harmonics to show off our skill a bit. But those “extras” are not the song.

Simple can be hard, not because it is hard on its own, but because it’s hard for us to leave it alone.

We want more; we want interesting; we want complex and complicated; we want showy.

But meditation is the art and practice of simplicity of thought, without ego and without ornamentation.

To begin a meditation practice, do not look at how often you can increase the practice, or how long you can sustain it. Look instead at the quality of the experience. What was smooth and what was difficult? In answering the question, we begin to play the practice, for it is through reflection that we are able to understand where we are simple and where we are showy. Sometimes, while singing the song, we are able to hit the notes, and sometimes we are not; sometimes the melody flows easily from us and sometimes it does not. But it is always singing. The difference between a novice’s warble and a virtuoso’s solo is simple: practice in an environment of feedback, not one of failure. There is not so much success with meditation as there is ease.

And when simplicity of thought comes with ease, all things will be more in balance, and the Way will be more clear.

As you consider taking on the practice of meditation start by answering:
  • What is it you hope to gain through meditation?
  • Describe successful meditation
  • Tell me about one who has mastered meditation:
    • What does her life have that yours does not?
    • What abilities does she have that you do not?