To the Editor:
Laura Wainwright has written a thoughtful piece (“She resolves to look into resolutions — and meets her goals,” January 20), describing the difficulties of aspiring to a daily meditation practice. The article struck a chord with me, and I would like to share a few observations from my own experience, which I will address directly to Ms. Wainwright as a fellow traveler on the path of meditation.
Caution: Taking meditation as a New Year’s resolution to be kept and employing a self-help book to achieve the goal may not be the most fruitful approach. By your own admission the second reading of the book left you feeling “overwhelmed and depressed,” and you now know, as a result of that reading, that 92 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. Why burden yourself with these negatives? Consider putting the book aside. Consider letting go of the idea of meditation as a resolution.
The good news is that you are drawn to meditation and have felt the benefits of the practice. You are already there. A seed has been planted in your heart. Water it. But do not fear, even if you forget or are unable to meditate as often as you would like and the plant seems to have dried up. The roots are alive, buried deep inside you and will respond to the slightest nod.
How does one steal 20 minutes from one’s day to spend in silence? I remember a very wise teacher once saying that even if you walk by the chair in which you would be sitting were you meditating, look at it, do so longingly but without guilt. That attitude honors your desire, and that desire will bear fruit.
You say that you have not yet “figured out” the support you need. Suggestions:
1) Read the spiritual masters in Buddhist, Christian and whatever other religious tradition appeals to you. I have found “Open Heart, Open Mind” by Father Thomas Keating, to be a practical and inspiring handbook that delineates what meditation is and is not and gives pointers on such difficulties as how to deal with the tree full of chattering monkeys that blooms in your brain when you try to find inner quiet.
2) Meditate in a communal setting: The Bodhi Path and, more recently, Good Shepherd Parish and St. Andrews Episcopal Church, welcome guests for meditation. The energy of meditating with others can be palpable, nourishing your own practice.
3) Yoga. I practice yoga as a way of integrating the body into peace and silence.
Best wishes, and may you enjoy the gift that is meditation and so bless the world.