When people hear that I teach meditation, they often tell me what bad meditators they would be, saying things like:
“Oh I could never do that, my mind is too busy;” or
“I can’t sit still, I could never meditate.”
Recently someone said, quite poetically, “I have never been able to free my mind to meditate.”
When I hear comments like these, I chuckle. Why? Because when I started meditating I was also a “bad meditator.” My mind was a raging torrent of thoughts, and I was a total fidgeter.
Not Just a Bad Meditator…. The Worst Meditator in the Room!
My first introduction to meditation was an evening presentation during college. We probably sat for all of five minutes.
A decade later I tried meditation again. This time for a whole weekend. It was amazing and life-changing.
But that weekend – I kid you not – I was the worst meditator in the room! (I know, because I talked to my fellow meditators – who weren’t having nearly as hard a time as I was.) My mind was all over the place and I could barely sit still. By the end of the day I was in so much pain I had to lie down to listen to the teacher give a talk.
So why did I keep going?
Because in the midst of all my physical pain, wandering thoughts, and shifting positions, I discovered something about myself I wanted more of. That weekend we used the term “basic goodness,” but there are lots of ways to describe this profound experience of belonging to oneself, of coming home, of feeling content with who we are.
Happy To Be the Worst
On the second day of the weekend, someone read a quote that completely changed how I saw myself. That memory has stayed with me for more than 25 years.
Even though this wasn’t a zen program, the passage comes from the great Zen master Shunryū Suzuki (aka Suzuki Roshi) from his book, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind.
Below is an excerpt. If you want to read the entire quote you can find it here.
It is said that there are four kinds of horses – an excellent one, and not so good ones, and a bad horse….. When we hear this story, perhaps everyone wants to be a good horse…. But… Zen is not the practice to be the best horse. If you think so – if you understand Zen as a kind of practice to be a best horse you will have a problem – big problem. …. Usually those who can sit physically perfect take more time to obtain the marrow of Zen – the true taste of Zen – actual feeling of Zen. Those who find a great difficulty in practice of Zen will find more meaning of Zen. So sometimes I think the best horse is the worst horse and the worst horse is the best one.
Think You Can Never Meditate?
Have you thought about meditating, but worried that you’ll be a bad meditator? If so, I hope you take heart from this post. Meditation is not about being perfect, it’s about connecting with your heart and the best of who you are.
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