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Am I Meditating Correctly?

Posted Jun 29 2012 1:13pm

I’m gradually working on a selected list of mindfulness links, some favorites. You could certainly do a lot worse than taking a look at Mindful.org,  which has a large selection of information on the possibly overly sexy topic of mindfulness. In particular, their selection of articles for beginning practitioners is very nice.

Here’s an excerpt from one of those, a piece by Norman Fischer titled “Getting Started”,  which addresses the concern that “I must be doing this wrong…”

There are many approaches to meditation. In my tradition, the Soto Zen tradition, meditation is not considered a skill that we are supposed to master. It is a practice that we devote ourselves to. So if you are meditating in the morning feeling half asleep, with dream-snatches passing by, and your mind not crisply focused precisely on the breath, the way you think it is supposed to be… this is perfectly all right. It is considered normal and possibly even beneficial. The biggest obstacle to establishing a meditation practice is the erroneous idea (firmly held by most people who want to establish a meditation practice) that meditation should calm and focus the mind. Therefore, if your mind is not calm and focused, you are certainly doing it wrong. Struggling with something that you are consistently doing wrong, and in your frustration can’t seem to get right, does not inspire you to continue (unless you are a masochist, and there are more than a few meditating masochists).

Better to assume the Soto Zen attitude that meditation is what you do when you meditate. There is no doing it wrong or right. That is not to say that there is no effort, no calm, no focus. Of course there is. The point is to avoid falling into the trap of defining meditation too narrowly, and then judging yourself based on that definition, and so sabotaging yourself. You evaluate your practice on a much wider and more generous calculus. Not: Is my mind concentrated while I am sitting? But: After meditating in the morning, how is my attention during the day? Not: Am I peaceful and still as I sit? But: Is my habit of flying off the handle reducing somewhat? In other words, the test of meditation isn’t meditation. It’s your life.

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