Is Meditation Your Friend or Your Enemy?

Via on Sep 21, 2010

Did you ever wonder why we resist something that connects us to peace of mind and inner happiness?

Isn’t it ironic how often the best things for us can be what we avoid the most? Something like meditation, for instance, that can bring us such joy can appear as unimportant, boring, and we have little time for it. Yet this is like being addicted to poison while resenting the antidote!

Some years ago, we were in Thailand, attending a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Each day a cheerful Buddhist monk would come to teach, and he would always ask us: “Are you happier today than you were yesterday?” As he said this, a wide smile would fill his face because he knew that we were confronting numerous obstacles to happiness, and not just the ones in our own minds. As beautiful as the coconut grove was, we were living with mosquitoes, centipedes, and snakes, sleeping on wooden planks, and did not eat after midday. How were we expected to find happiness amidst such extremes?

Yet despite his humorous tone, the smiling monk’s question was a genuine one. We were on a meditation retreat. If we were not beginning to feel happier as a result, then what was the point of being there? Why meditate if we don’t enjoy it?

Every day he asked us that same question, “Are you happier today than you were yesterday?”

This had the effect of highlighting the extent to which we were preoccupied with our own concerns, doubts, and conflicts, and even how difficulties can actually feel more familiar and meaningful than joy. How easy it was to blame physical discomforts for our lack of happiness!

This highlights how important it is that we make friends with meditation. We are not here to battle with ourselves; meditation is not the enemy. Nor do we need to make excuses, complaining that our mind is too busy or restless. Rather than resisting stillness, we can let the business and discomfort become our meditation.

In the same way, it will be of no help at all if we feel we have to meditate, and then feel guilty if we miss the allotted time or only do ten minutes when we had promised to do thirty. It is much better to practice for a just a few minutes and to enjoy what we are doing than to make ourselves sit there, teeth gritted, because we have been told that only thirty minutes will have any affect. Meditation is a companion for us to have throughout our life, like a dear friend we turn to when in need of reflection, inspiration, and clarity. It is to be enjoyed!

Almost everything we do in life is to achieve something: If we do this, then we will get that; if we do that, then this will happen. We are not used to doing something without an agenda. If our purpose is to try to achieve a quiet mind, then the trying itself will create tension and failure.

Instead, we are just with whatever is happening in the moment, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. No judgment, no right or wrong. Watching whatever arises and letting it go is all that is required. It is more of an undoing than a doing. There is no ulterior motive other than to be here, without a goal of succeeding or of trying to get anywhere.

Practicing meditation means slowly and gently training the mind to do something it may not have done before: to be still. The technique gives the mind an activity, and every time it wanders off on a thinking spree, simply notice this and bring it back to the practice. The experience of stillness is accumulative: The more stillness, so slowly the mind becomes quieter.

About Ed & Deb Shapiro

Award-Winning Authors Ed and Deb of Be The Change, How Meditation can Transform You and the World, are mindfulness, meditation and yoga experts. Deb’s new novel: Merging: Women in Lovewhat happens when you fall in love with the least likely person of the least likely gender?—and she is the author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, now in 19 languages. They have three meditation CDs. See more at their website

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7 Responses to “Is Meditation Your Friend or Your Enemy?”

  1. Charlotte says:

    Your first few paragraphs reminded me of a realization I once had on a 30-day insight meditation retreat. I was sitting atop a beautiful mountain in Southern Utah with a small sangha of people I respect. The teachers were of highest integrity, the food was fabulous, the routine was the same every single day. Yet, my mind careened from desperate escape plans to unbounded love. The ONLY variable was my own wandering mind. I realized could make the situation wonderful or unbearable by how I responded to it. Big lesson that I'm still working with!

  2. Ed & Deb Shapiro Ed Shapiro says:

    Hi Jeb – happy to hear – In the dharma – Ed

  3. Ed & Deb Shapiro Ed Shapiro says:

    whoopps this was meant for the chap below called Barry!

  4. [...] However, if our children were to describe the walks, they might paint a different picture.  Sure, they love it when we head out and about as a family.  But they might also point out that we parents are mighty focused on the “walking” part of it, and that there’s one item we adults frequently bring with us, wherever we go – our agenda. [...]

  5. Ed & Deb Shapiro Ed Shapiro says:

    Hi Barry – I couldn't agree with you more. We send what we did because so many people stop meditating as they do not know how to make friends with their practice.

    That means making friends with whatever arises as you have done.

  6. Ed & Deb Shapiro Ed Shapiro says:

    Barry Gillespie – read what I replied to you belwo here again:

    actually whatever comes up in meditation comes up and should be let go – good bad or indifferent- let it al pass like birds in the sky of your mind.

    what is valid and important is awareness – let's not make a big deal about the content see the essence the emptiness

    the true mind is like the sky transparent – there is the sun, moon, winds, snow – tornadoes- rain etc but the sky always is untouched by it all – the sky remains the sky – so is your true mind.

    and ultimate meditation is not a practice – the practice of meditation is just a technique a technique will never get you there – will never set you free – only when everything drops away do you experience authentic self – true meditation – when you are free there is not practice

    get out of the mind – be aware – know your own natural radiant self. And see that the dark side is just a play of the ego-centric mind

    In the dharma – Jygme Powa – Ed

  7. Ed & Deb Shapiro Ed Shapiro says:

    Hi Barry – I couldn't agree with you more. We send what we did because so many people stop meditating as they do not know how to make friends with their practice.

    actually whatever comes up in meditation comes up and should be let go – good bad or indifferent- let it al pass like birds in the sky of your mind.

    what is valid and important is awareness – let's not make a big deal about the content see the essence the emptiness

    the true mind is like the sky transparent – there is the sun, moon, winds, snow – tornadoes- rain etc but the sky always is untouched by it all – the sky remains the sky – so is your true mind.

    and ultimate meditation is not a practice – the practice of meditation is just a technique a technique will never get you there – will never set you free – only when everything drops away do you experience authentic self – true meditation – when you are free there is not practice

    get out of the mind – be aware – know your own natural radiant self. And see that the dark side is just a play of the ego-centric mind

    In the dharma – Jygme Powa – Ed

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