CHALLENGING THE CHALLENGE
As a longtime reader of your magazine and a daily meditator, I was distressed by the “Commit To Sit” practice section that appears in the Spring 2007 issue. I am certain that your intentions were good, but I believe that it is not helpful to present daily meditation as some sort of challenge as it inevitably leads one to the sense that meditation involves some sort of competition. If one fails to meet the guidelines outlined in this challenge, is that person a failure, or a second-rate meditator? The idea of this challenge is especially disconcerting in view of an article that I recently read by Sharon Salzberg in which she seemed to indicate that the most important thing for a person to do when seeking to establish a meditation practice is to simply keep at it. It would be extremely upsetting if beginning or prospective meditators stopped their practices simply because they were having difficulty in meeting the goals set forth in this article.
We should honor and encourage whatever time commitment people can make to meditation and not discourage them. The helpfulness or correctness of meditative practice simply cannot be judged on the basis of time spent in meditation. It would be wise to remember the first time that we sat down to meditate and the time it took for even the most committed of us to make progress.
Thank you for your letter. We hoped that framing the retreat as a challenge would be motivational and, like you, we were concerned that the word “challenge” might discourage some readers. To avoid this, we included these words of caution in the introduction: “Everyone will struggle to follow the program perfectly. Do not let missed meditation sessions or broken vows discourage you. Just return to the practice. As Sharon Salzberg often tells her students, it’s the coming back that deepens our practice.”
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