Striving?

Our typical hurried impatience to wrap each project up, then quickly move on to the next, simply doesn't work in meditation. Meditation is a very deep, gradual, transformative process.

At my first meditation retreat, I was fortunate enough to learn a priceless lesson. One of the participants, an Anglican nun in her eighties, was asked to describe the flavor of her consistent, 20-year meditation practice. In a strong, raspy voice she declared: "Dry as toast!" I found this hilarious yet profoundly inspiring. Patient, equanimous perseverance - the kind water uses to wear away rock - is both what's necessary for, as well as what's cultivated through, meditation.

"Striving is pandemic in our culture. My doctoral research revealed that across the board - independent of gender, profession, or age - every subject I interviewed began meditation practice with a striving orientation. Each held a predominant expectation that with sufficient effort and willpower, certain thoughts, feelings, and unwanted aspects of personality would go away and stay away. This push to achieve affected me, too. I harshly criticized myself for failing to meet wildly unrealistic goals, vowed to do better next time, and became irritable and despondent. This misunderstanding and unconscious striving run deep in the West, but they are terribly counterproductive in meditation.

Steady, balanced energy is foundational to meditation. Kalu Rinpoche, a famous Tibetan teacher of the last century, expressed this perspective, one which is so difficult for us to embody:

We can never understand the nature of the mind through intense effort,

but only by relaxing, just as breaking a wild horse

requires that one approach it gently and treat it kindly

rather than running after it and trying to use force.

So do not try to catch hold of the nature of the mind,

just leave it like it is.

Eventually, the subjects of my research study discovered that striving had to give way to acceptance."

Bill Morgan. "The Meditator's Dilemma: An Innovative Approach to Overcoming Obstacles and Revitalizing Your Practice." Shambhala, 2016.

Faith in Flowers

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