Not “Doing” Meditation

“Meditation works by itself, you don’t have to do anything.” – John Butler

I’m sitting in for a zen teacher, holding the class in place for a minute while she rides out some medical problems. It’s interesting, during the question and answer periods most question were about sitting in meditation and the frustration and utter failure of achieving anything, of attaining that one point focus that they train so hard to develop.

How weird. It dropped in that what these people were pointing to was suffering. Lately I’ve noticed how much suffering takes place disguised as meditation. The suffering isn’t because of meditation, it’s in the attempt to control and manipulate meditation where frustration and anger rise. Attempting to train a flowing stream of thought is like trying to slow my beating heart. I may be able to do so after years of practice, but my response is, So What? How does this relate to those of us who aren’t going to stare at a wall for a few decades to prove we can slow our hearts or hold some idea against the flowing thoughts? There’s grocery shopping, bills, taxes, family dynamics, personal relationships, goals, and social engagements that are our life, and constantly needing our attention. That is also life, that is also in our attention, that is also who and how we are in these moments.

So I asked them, what’s so hard about being in attention? Breathing deeply? Noticing how the quality of time shifts, the visuals, smells, noticing what an amazing feeling it is when the air expands our tiny lungs to full capacity and how the body responds with shivers when oxygen rich blook feeds the tissue. What a wonderful feeling,

“I am here.”

Then noticing how suddenly attention is in streaming thoughts, images, stories, concepts, attitudes, feelings, various emotional experiences, all flowing seamlessly. The streaming thoughts tease with bits and images of things I haven’t been aware of for decades.

And like a magic trick, I find my attention back in presence. Where was “I?” I was streaming thoughts, now “I” am simply sitting in the room sensing everything present, with the stream of thought burbling away in the background. And I fold into this place, consciously noting presence, engaging everything in proximity of senses. I am here.

This odd little experience is all there is to meditation, at least for me. What a relief. Just Being. Quietly sitting, calmly noticing as we flow in life, not doing, not attending to thoughts as they sift, examine, and extract thoughts. Just like our heart beats, the stream of thought flows. We are a leaf in life’s four dimensional flow, knowing what just was, and unable to see what’s next. How intense, what more is there to be?

Meditation isn’t doing, isn’t acquiring, isn’t getting better, and certainly isn’t a path to nirvana. And, by not doing anything, we get it.

Bryan Wagner

Dedicated to the “Hearts Path Sangha”

If you find this useful, please share.❤️

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