Meditation (a confession)

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Hey all, I have a confession to make. I’m a Buddhist and I suck at meditation. I’ve put a lot more effort into (wide-ranging) study than I have into meditation. The study has definitely paid off. I see the humanity in jerks I’d otherwise hate, I see how people and things can change, I see how attachment produces suffering (but also sometimes happiness too), I see how only a few pieces of knowledge can bring a lot of peace, I’ve hugely benefited from mudita, and (in a few cases) I’ve meditated for a little while to a point where I felt generally very peaceful. It’s also just interesting to study the suttas and the abhidhamma, I find.

But… today, for instance, I went to a Zen center to try to work on my meditation. I’ve been treating it like a Buddhist gym. Go there, build up “mind muscle”, come out more “mind muscly”. Or something. I was going to do a 30 minute zazen… but I chickened out. Ended up staring at their koi pond for a while. Just being “stuck” for 30 minutes there was freaking me out for whatever reason.

This is rambling, but hopefully it’s useful rambling. Have any of you built up a meditation practice, despite some obstacles? How did you do it? To be clear, I’m a Theravadin, visiting a center of another tradition to pick up some pointers and practice. I’ve learned about the Mahasi tradition and I’ve read a Fronsdal book which seemed great… just have to put it into practice.

Edit: This is not an anti-Zen post in any way. I was welcomed and given proper instruction when I went there for the first time. Essentially everyone was friendly and supportive. It’s a great place to practice Zen; I’m just not sure the 1.5-hour sessions are for me at this time.


You might find it helpful to approach meditation more like a relaxation session than a work-out. Letting the mind settle, rather than trying to “discipline” it. Also bear in mind that you can meditate walking, standing up and lying down, as well as sitting. You don’t have to sit for 30 minutes, it could be 5 or 10 minutes initially. Eyes could open instead of shut. And so on. Be creative, try stuff out. :blush:


Before this topic gets rolling I’m popping in to remind everyone that this forum isn’t set up for instruction or discussion of personal meditation issues, thus, please keep responses to general meditation discussion based on Early Buddhist texts.
Thank you!


@Martin Thanks. Even though this community wasn’t set up for instruction, I’ve received some support and help, which is really great. Definitely thankful to be here. :sunglasses:


@dhammadharo, what are you hoping to gain from ‘meditation’ and is it what is expected as an outcome from meditation in EBTs? :slight_smile:


Hey, thanks for your honesty and humility. :pray:


To visit meditation groups can be helpful, for company, exchange, or just structure. Like many people are not comfortable with being freelancers, they need the structure and reliance of being employed. And especially in the beginning meditation is really just a mental mess where we try to figure things out and have clarity, without a chance. Diligence begets familiarity.

I think that everyone here who has visited dozens of meditation groups and/or monasteries can tell you that there is something idiosyncratic going on with them. Each group has a certain way do to things, to engage, or keep distance, to welcome newbees or to leave them unattanded. To be formal or informal, to do rituals or not. And no group will give you a guide book - it’s always like ‘hm, how are they doing it?’. Often even the group members cannot tell you explicitly how they do things, they just do it. This not-knowing-what-is-expected-from-me can be socially intimidating, but hesitation is really unnecessary.

What I would do with visiting a group is to ask if I can get a quick introduction, ask about their ‘ways’ of how to do things, and for the rest just follow what the others do, simple as that. It will be rarely a perfect fit, and I will find some thing or another odd. But so what, if people are nice and the practice is conducive, I can rely on the principle of ‘getting-used-to-after-a-while’.


To be fair to them, the folks at the Zen center were friendly and helpful. One of their members gave me a preliminary instruction in zazen. So I’m not trying to say they did anything wrong. It’s my responsibility to work on this part of my practice. And with this, I’ll try to avoid posting practice-related things, moderators.


You may want to try to come into it at a tangent rather than approaching it head on. You could for instance volunteer at a meditation centre. Maybe doing the flowers for the shrine or a bit of cleaning, organising the rooms, doing paperwork or feeding the fish. Whatever your current skill set allows you to do easily. That way you may or may not gently fall into the occasional class or puja and ultimately foster a meditative habit. Whatever happens you will at least be supporting the meditation of those who do meditate, which is a very beneficial thing to do.


Hi @dhammadharo! Maybe you may try TWIM (Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation) by Ven. Vimalaramsi, his method is based only in the Suttas and, by the way, is the one I practice. You can get more info at May you be well and happy :blush: :pray:


Hello. Don’t try to gain something from meditation. Better to try to lose something, like your desire to succeed. Best is to listen to your mind and let go of your bodily needs. Peace.


Welcome to the community here on Suttacentral’s Discuss & Discover forum, @KienCao! We are happy to have you and look forward to your contributions!



Nice! :sunglasses:


If you want a scholarly exploration of meditation in the EBTs, a lecture series by Alex Wynne of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies is available here: Early Buddhist Meditation: A Philosophical Investigation | Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies


If you want a non-scholarly exploration of meditation, you can watch these cats in sunglasses;


Cool! But returning to the EBTs (as our alert moderator reminded us); Wynne’s lecture series is a penetrating challenge to our use of the Anapanasati sutta as our meditation guide. According to his analysis, we might find that this is not exactly what the Buddha had taught, and there are important practical implications.