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.”
Thanks for Adam Frank’s On Science article (“In the Light of Truth,” Spring 2007). He writes: “There is a Zen saying that the point of practice is to avoid fooling yourself.” Richard Feynman once said, “Science is what we have learned about how not to fool ourselves about the way the world is.” Putting those statements together, I’ll say that Buddhism and humanistic psychology are what we have learned about how not to fool ourselves about our subjective experience.
Culver City, California
A DHARMA VET
I was pleased to encounter a reference to Claude Anshin Thomas made by Charles Johnson in his article “The Dharma of Social Transformation” (Winter 2006). I have been to several veteran retreats facilitated by Anshin beginning in 1999, when my husband, a Vietnam combat veteran who had exhausted all conventional possibilities of coming to grips with the devastating effects that war and violence had upon his life, was willing to try anything to find a new way of relating to his experiences.
Claude Anshin Thomas provided us with a gentle introduction to a differentway of thinking, to the value of sitting meditation, and to the benefit of a regular practice. Since my husband’s graceful death in 2005, I have continued to attend the veteran’s retreat here in Oregon. Knowing Anshin and witnessing the work that he does with some of the most badly damaged individuals in our society has been a wonderful gift to me. His story and his work bear more recognition. We can all benefit from the inspiration of his life.
Jane Angyo Scotti
Junction City, Oregon
I am writing in response to a letter in the Winter 2006 issue that objected to our company’s use of a Buddha statue amidst gold coins in our Tricycle ads. I sincerely apologize to any of your readers who found the image offensive. While many of us would like to live in a world where money does not come into contact with spiritual practice, most lay practitioners interact with money constantly, and must therefore work internally with attachment, aversion, craving, and nonharming. Given that money causes so much suffering in our culture, our experience has been that the integration of Buddhist practices and values with personal financial management has the potential to be incredibly helpful to many people. I wish for all of your readers a life of nonattachment and increased awareness with money.
Brent Kessel, C.E.O.
ACCEPTING THE CHALLENGE
Postings from the Commit to Sit forum on tricycle.com
February 14, 2007
The second I saw the Commit to Sit cover, I committed before even cracking into the article. I am completely new to meditation and have always meant to pursue the practice. Two twenty-minute sessions are tough to fit into my busy schedule, but I get the effectiveness of jumping in with all four paws. I have sworn off sugar and alcohol for the duration as well. Thanks for the inspired challenge!
February 20, 2007
So I’m standing in line at Whole Foods today. It’s the day before Lent and I’m not Catholic…or Buddhist, either. I see Tricycle with “Commit to Sit: Tricycle’s 28-Day Mediation Challenge” on the cover. Maybe something about the word “challenge” made me think about Lent, and giving things up, and how my New Year’s resolutions—all of them about regular practice and spiritual living—have almost totally fallen apart. So I’m very grateful for this practice opportunity and grateful for a cyber-sangha and the sense of not being in it alone.
February 25, 2007
Thank you for coming up with this idea of Commit to Sit! I’ve been a practicing member of a sangha for seventeen years but have never gone on retreat. I’m the
only person in my family who practicesBuddhism. I often feel like a fish out of water, an oddity among my own people. But this challenge and the support that I’m receiving from the forum is causing me to realize that there is nothing wrong here.
February 25, 2007
Hi everyone! This is such a wonderful idea! I have been a Buddhist for many years, but my sitting practice has been nonexistent for about five. The longer I have been in sitting limbo, the harder it has been to recommit. I am both excited and nervous about beginning. I wonder what I will experience on my dusty cushion these years later. I think it is brilliant to have a cybersangha and to be able to access dharma online. In the end, though, it is the cushion (which I have been avoiding) that awaits me.
March 22, 2007
Today I just felt like thanking your for your wonderful meditation instruction in Tricycle. Currently in my fourth week, I can already feel and appreciate the positive impact this has on my life. When I told my teacher, Geshe Thupten Sherab, of Kopan Monastery, Nepal, about this challenge, asking him how I should continue after I am finished with it, he replied: “Do it again.”
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