I’m in agreement with much of what is said in this LinkedIn post by Mark McCartney entitled “Ignore much of how meditation is sold.” Here’s an excerpt:
Companies exaggerate its instant positive effects and many meditators do likewise. They have spent their lives being good students in school, good employees at work and can’t help themselves in trying to be “good” meditators – competing with each other and regurgitating experiences that they’ve read about as their own.
None of which is my business, each to their own. The problem I have is that in both the exaggeration of it effect and in the exaggeration of the depth and serenity of someone’s practice, it leads people that are new at meditation to feel like they are doing it wrong. They end up thinking they are bad meditators and ultimately quit before they’ve really started.
But I would say the biggest thing that confuses newbies is that they sit and wait for their mind to be quieted immediately. That’s not going to happen. Those stories will still come. You might meditate for 50 years, 100 years, and those stories are still going to float into your mind. That’s just part of being human. Meditation won’t turn those off. It won’t turn you into a robot.
Unfortunately, many beginners expect this sudden transformation – perhaps because we live in a society where the answer to most things is “there’s a pill for that.” What meditation does allow you to do is to learn to recognize the stories for what they are – they’re just stories. And once you get the hang of that recognition, you can start to change the storyline, change the arc of your character – and sometimes even find that complete silence while meditating. Now that’s a result I can live with!
As someone who tries to consistently approach each day with “Beginner’s Mind” – not easy to do with all those stories we tell ourselves – I found this dharma talk from Jonathan Foust to be one that I treasure. It has particular appeal to me because I left a job that I was closely identified with about 15 months ago and that was a real challenge. It sometimes still is.
Over the past few years, Jonathan has shared the advice to “not chase shiny objects” when you’re making a big change like the one I did. And as he notes, that can be a real challenge. Particularly for me because I like to dive deep into whatever project, whatever cause, I decide to pursue. So it’s difficult to pause and let the moment pass without jumping in with two feet.
At the 31:52 mark, Jonathan makes these points about starting again:
1. Recognizing that it’s about what’s happening, but also about how you’re relating to what’s happening. What is your perception?
2. Understanding the reality of what are the challenges that you face right now. In the short term, what support do you need to move forward?
3. Learning what’s important to you. What are your values? What is calling you? What has heart to it?
4. How do you move forward? What are the next steps? Your priorities? What allies would be useful? Do you need training or coaching? How will you feel at the end? Creating the habits to help you fill your cup.
If you know me, you know that I am “driven.” I’m driven in my professional pursuits, in my very active lifestyle. I’m often up before 5 am and I’m off. But yet, I like to think that I am fairly laid back. Perhaps I’m fooling myself.
But I do remember a time when I wasn’t driven. That I truly led a life of “haven’t thought about tomorrow.” In high school, my chum Perry – God rest your soul, brother – and I would drive around with a quarter gallon of gas in the tank, wondering when we would run dry. (Yes, it would run dry.) It’s idiotic, I know. But there was a thrill to it and I wouldn’t dare do something like that now. Anyway, it reminded me of this song by Trevor Hall (with Brett Dennen pitching in)…