In Praise of Distracted Meditation

Alex Tzelnic in Slate:

When people learn that I meditate every day, they often sheepishly admit that they wish they could, but that they just aren’t suited for it, or their mind is too active, or they don’t have the time. This always reminds me of Anne Lamott’s iconic gem of an essay, “Shitty First Drafts.” While nonwriters tend to conceive of the writing process as a montage of steaming mugs of tea and meaningful glances outside windows frosted just so, in reality, writing is a grind. Words arrive slowly, and in direct proportion to how much time your ass is touching the chair and your fingers stroking the keyboard. And so I try and explain that meditation is exactly the same.

Many burgeoning meditators have visions of rapturous sitting rounds spent floating upon the meditation cushion, the incense burning just so, the mind clear and calm. The reasoning for this misconception is twofold: first, this is exactly how every meditator appears, since no one else is privy to the cacophony inside your skull; second, meditation is big business these days, and serenity sells. The truth, though, is that meditation can also be a real grind, the understanding arriving slowly and in direct proportion to how much time your ass is touching the sitting cushion and your breath rising and falling. When I wake up early to sit on the cushion for 30 minutes, it is often begrudgingly, and my sitting round is often, well, shitty. But this kind of message does not fill dharma halls and lead to best-sellers. (If a meditation instructor tells the truth and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?)

More here.