Meditation Blog : April 2006 Archives
"Can anybody meditate?" is the title of a chapter from Jon Kabat-Zinn's deservedly bestselling book "Wherever You, There You Are." It's a good question to ask, as many people think they don't have the temperament for meditation, have tried it briefly only to give up, or simply see it as an esoteric discipline without application to their lives. It's unfortunate, because meditation is a simple way for everyone to access life fully and deeply. Here's the rest of Kabat-Zinn's chapter:
I get asked this question a lot. I suspect people ask because they think that probably everybody else can meditate but they can't. They want to be reassured that they are not alone, that there are at least some other people they can identify with, those hapless souls who were born incapable of meditating. But it isn't so simple.
Thinking you are unable to meditate is a little like thinking you are unable to breathe, or to concentrate or relax. Pretty much everybody can breathe easily. And under the right circumstances, pretty much anybody can concentrate, anybody can relax.
People often confuse meditation with relaxation or some other special state that you have to get to or feel. When once or twice you try and you don't get anywhere or you didn't feel anything special, then you think you are one of those people who can't do it.
But, meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It's about feeling the way you feel. It's not about making the mind empty or still, although stillness does deepen in meditation and can be cultivated systematically. Above all, meditation is about letting the mind be as it is and knowing something about how it is in this moment. It's not about getting somewhere else, but about allowing yourself to be where you already are. If you don't understand this, you will think you are constitutionally unable to meditate. But that's just more thinking, and in this case, incorrect thinking at that.
True, meditation does require energy and a commitment to stick with it. But then, wouldn't it be more accurate to say, "I wont stick with it," rather than, "I can't do it?" Anybody can sit down and watch their breath or watch their mind. And you don't have to be sitting. You could do it walking, standing, lying down, standing on one leg, running, or taking a bath. But to stay at it for even five minutes requires intentionality. To make it part of your life requires some discipline. So when people say they can't meditate, what they really mean is they won't make time for it, or that when they try, they don't like what happens. It isn't what they are looking for or hoping for. It doesn't fulfill their expectations. So maybe they should try again, this time letting go of their expectations and just watching.