About The Stuff that Stops Us

I woke up this morning with the answer to a question that had been nagging me for a long time, which was:

“Why do so many people want to meditate, but when they try it, they give up?”

I’ve taught hundreds of people how to meditate and most of them give up.  Various reasons are cited – not enough time, too difficult, results not quick enough, too subtle and so on.

At first I took it personally, but I’ve spoken to other meditation teachers and it’s the same thing for all of us.  People love it until they reach this point where they just can’t go on …

So this morning I was thinking about it, and a possible answer occurred to me:

We live in a world that’s focused on distracting us from  ourselves.  Entertainment, excitement, fun, work … it is all about something else – pouring our attention into outside things.

And in all this carnival of life, as complex, quick and mad as it is, we forget ourselves.

Aside from those uncomfortable times when there’s a break in the carnival , or when life reflects our inner angst back to us, we forget it all … we coast from distraction to distraction, and aside from the face in the mirror in the mornings, there is nobody and nothing here except what we’re doing and the excited attention that is consuming it.  No wonder we’re called ‘consumers’ … because for most people, that’s exactly what they are most of the time. And modern life as it is, as densely filled with distractions as it is, helps us to do that.

So, then we decide to learn meditation.

At first it’s fun – another distraction, a novelty, something new, a challenge, just like everything else in our life.

And we might have read some books, heard about ‘enlightenment’ and ‘bliss’ … so we have this idea that the stillness the teacher is talking about will be amazing, fun, unbelievably calm – a total trip.

And we go into the meditation looking for that.

But the stillness that appears is not quite what we were expecting … it’s not like what we read about in the books,

And the reason it’s different is because, in the initial stages,  it always brings our self with it. And that’s something we never bargained for …

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4 thoughts on “About The Stuff that Stops Us

  1. Interesting post. Yes, we are trained somewhat in society to distract ourselves instead of taking time to reflect. Technology is such a major part of why its so easy not to meditate. Everything is at the tip of our hands and yet many Americans are unhappy because they don’t feel whole.

    • You’re right. We use technology to ‘make life easier’ and more comfortable, and yet it only serves to make us more hypersensitive to the natural friction of living, and more restless because we so rarely spend time with our sense of self. So habits remain un-moderated, views and opinions deepen into dogmatic grooves and pathological reactions. It’s a perculiar kind of indifference that arises from our constant distraction.

      And, to me anyway, the answer is simply … be with yourself for a short time each day, and know what is happening … that’s enough. Mind and body are like children – given love, kindness and attention each day they bring themselves up and stay healthy. But also like children, indifference kills them slowly. And that’s what is happening with most people … and the atrophy of their spirit is so slow they don’t even know it’s happening.

      Oh well, it’s the way of things. In the end, the universe keeps right on expanding …

      Nice to meet you,
      Roger

  2. leeda on said:

    I think it is also because modern man is result oriented. It is difficult to pursue anything unless we see results for our efforts. Look at all the failed diet fads. even when we are willing to surrender our misconceptions about meditation goals, we still have a need to see some sort of tangible results to motivate continued effort. The thing I hear most often from people I know who have started and stopped practice is that they feel they are just going in a circle and do not feel like they are progressing. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for meditation trainers to inspire their students to work past these hurdles with no carrot on the end of the stick. I guess that is why so many end up dangling the old *enlightenment* lure.

    I know from my personal experience that, until I reached the point where meditation became a habit of my life.. a part of my daily routine like brushing my teeth.. I was always struggling with motivation. I would still be struggling if I had not come across your book, “Happy to Burn”.. back in the late 90’s I think..some years ago. The importance of committing to a daily routine was something you stressed in the book.. and it clicked for me. I will be forever grateful for that advice. It has made all the difference.

    • Hi Leeda … you’re dead right, the results, ‘win/fail’ mindset that has been inculcated within our culture is immensely paralyzing when people begin meditation, largely because, next to our expectations and imagining of what meditation will be like, the reality so often seems like failure. But the irony is, if people would just plough through the mess that happens in the beginning, and forget what they expected, they would experience something more sublime than they could have imagined.

      Routine is everything.

      Nice to hear from you,
      cheers
      Roger

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