February 15, 2012
I consider myself to be a very patient person. I'm patient with my friends, my family, my colleagues—I'm patient while waiting for a red light to change, and patient when the bank representative puts me on hold for 13 minutes. But I'm not patient with myself. If I do not learn something quickly, or I do not consider myself to be "good" at an activity, I throw in the towel almost immediately (it's why I don't play tennis or pool). This desire to improve by leaps and bounds has been challenging during meditation month. I expected that the more I sat, the easier it would get—actually, I thought the more I sat the better I would get at sitting. But so far it has been a roller coaster of good days, bad days, and worse days.
As I read through the article that today's Daily Dharma was selected from (the "The Joy of Effort," included in this month's meditation e-book), I found some helpful advice from Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
The key to maintaining your inspiration in the day-to-day work of meditation practice is to approach it as play—a happy opportunity to master practical skills, to raise questions, experiment, and explore. This is precisely how the Buddha himself taught meditation. Instead of formulating a cut-and-dried method, he first trained his students in the personal qualities—such as honesty and patience—needed to make trustworthy observations.
My goal for the next week of meditation is to take each day as it comes, without context or expectations. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu suggests, I will try to approach practice with a sense of play, an opportunity to challenge myself while also being patient as I develop a more skillful practice. It's not about being the best—there's no such thing when it comes to meditation.
Throughout Meditation Month we'll be posting videos, audio interviews, articles, and tips from well-known Buddhist teachers. If you need more personal advice for your practice, "Meditation Doctor" and Zen teacher Brad Warner will be answering reader questions here all month. Our meditation e-book, free to supporting and sustaining members, includes 25 articles on meditation that will help you develop and maintain your meditation practice. You can download the Tricycle Teachings: Meditation e-book here.