Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Meditation = radical acceptance

It is very common for meditators to become attached to a certain feeling or mind state during meditation and to believe that they're "doing it wrong" if such feelings do not arise. Jon Kabat-Zinn speaks to this most eloquently:
For meditation, and especially mindfulness meditation, is not the throwing of a switch and catapulting yourself anywhere, nor is it entertaining certain thoughts and getting rid of others. Nor is it making your mind blank or willing yourself to be peaceful or relaxed. It is really an inward gesture that inclines the heart and mind (seen as one seamless whole) toward a full-spectrum awareness of the present moment just as it is, accepting whatever is happening simply because it is already happening. This inner orientation is sometimes referred to in psychotherapy as “radical acceptance.” This is hard work, very hard work, especially when what is happening does not conform to our expectations, desires, and fantasies. And our expectations, desires, and fantasies are all-pervasive and seemingly endless. They can color everything, sometimes in very subtle ways that are not at all obvious, especially when they are about meditation practice and issues of “progress” and “attainment.”

Meditation is not about trying to get anywhere else. It is about allowing yourself to be exactly where you are and as you are, and for the world to be exactly as it is in this moment as well. This is not so easy, since there is always something that we can rightly find fault with if we stay inside our thinking. And so there tends to be great resistance on the part of the mind and body to settle into things just as they are, even for a moment. That resistance to what is may be even more compounded if we are meditating because we hope that by doing so, we can effect change, make things different, improve our own lives, and contribute to improving the lot of the world.
The above excerpt is from Kabat-Zinn's book entitled Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness.

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