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The Wooden Bowl - Simple Meditation for Everyday Life

by Clark Strand

listed in meditation

[Image: The Wooden Bowl - Simple Meditation for Everyday Life]

Meditate as a Hobby, Not as a Career

Like a hobby, meditation ought to be a time when you can occupy your mind with something for its own sake, without getting caught up in any of your usual preoccupations: Am I doing this right? Are the others doing it better? I'll probably fail at this, just like everything else. It ought to be an area of your life where you can let go of the obsessive desire to improve yourself, to get ahead, or to do better than anybody else. And yet, without realizing it, this is exactly what many meditators do.

Some feel neurotically driven to achieve a higher level of self-esteem, as if to meditate were synonymous with "being good." Others meditate for psychological health or for a lower pulse rate. Still others for better karma or a more exalted spiritual state. They go off for long retreats to find themselves, leaving their families behind. But where are they going to find themselves if not in the lives they have?

Meditating as a hobby is actually a far more honest approach to meditation than treating it like an obligation, a moral responsibility, or a job. When people tell me they are meditating for peace or to improve the world, I always think they don't yet know what meditation is about. Not that meditating doesn't make us more peaceful or give us a generally more positive outlook on the world, but that it is impossible to meditate with such a goal in mind. I am always more impressed when people tell me they meditate because they like it, or because their lives are so busy that once a day, for a few minutes at least, they just want to have some peace of mind. In my opinion, this is a lighter, more open approach. Ultimately, it is also more direct.

Once meditation rises above the level of play its possibilities are diminished. Why? Because when meditation loses its lightness it becomes like everything else – another object of desire. When we meditate for something other than meditating, we only become further ensnared in the endless cycle of getting and spending, whereby every activity in every moment has to have a goal. Reaching that goal yields fulfilment or happiness, failing brings disappointment or despair. To treat meditation in this way is not only ineffective, it actually makes matters worse, because then there really is no hope for peace or happiness, fulfilment or love, because these things, when they happen, always come from within us, and always happen now.

Meditation ought to decrease the drivenness of our lives, not make it worse. That is why I say meditate for its own sake, as a hobby, without losing the lightness of your first approach. That is why I say don't become an expert, but stay a beginner instead. Because if you treat meditation as a career, then it becomes concerned with achievement. And when that happens meditation becomes fundamentally no different from the desire to get ahead, to get more money, or a better job.

The person who meditates – whether for five minutes or five hours a day – wants to keep one area of his or her life that is not driven, that does not draw them ceaselessly away from the fundamental enoughness, sanity, and beauty of the world. The person who truly meditates, and is not caught up in some neurotic game knows that peace, love, happiness, contentment – everything happens now.

* Extracted with permission.

Sandra Goodman PhD

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