People always ask, “So, why should I bother to meditate? It looks awfully boring, just sitting sitting sitting.”
It’s a natural question.
One answer, one of the Buddha’s answers was basically, that we can find delight in meditation.
But if you, like me, are generally a hot mess of worry, desire, impatience, finding delight in sitting still can feel like kind of a tall order. Thankfully, there’s help. Something I found near the end of Geri Larkin’s excellent book, “Stumbling Toward Enlightenment,” is her explanation of the 18th century Zen teacher, Hakuin’s advice to meditators on how to find delight.
1. Have faith in your practice. In my own practice this is faith born of experience and paying attention as closely as I can to what happens when I do sit. Noticing subtle shifts in heart and mind. Am I a little more chill right now, moment by moment? Larkin also suggests we have “little-kid” faith; that is, that we belief our meditation practice will be there to catch us no matter what, in the same way kids believe their parents will catch them as they co me zooming off the slide in the playground so they won’t end up face down in the dirt.
2. Keep a ball of doubt growing every day. This might sound counter-intuitive to you. Remember though, the Buddha said, “Be a light unto yourself.” He didn’t tell us to listen and believe ANYTHING just on anyone’s say so, no matter what kind of master they were. We all have to ask ourselves, all the time fundamental questions: What is this? How is this? I like Byron Katie’s question, “Is it true?” If we keep asking asking asking and put effort into seeing, we’ll sort ourselves out. Larkin says that her, “own ball of doubt is the feeling that I’m right on the edge of solving some unknown crime, and I just keep meditating and believe in the practice, the crime will be solved.” (p.207)
3. Be tenacious. Again, Geri Larkin:
Hakuin taught that tenacity is the third action. Without it we will desert spiritual work after a string of frustrating days and our concentration will slowly dry up like a water table that isn’t replenished.
I think that when we practice with tenacity, with drive, whether it’s meditation or anything else, music, writing, knitting, cooking, studying neuroscience, raising alpacas, whatever, that when we devote ourselves 100% to the task, and the task in aligned with what’s true, what’s beneficial, that slowly, over a period of years, we will succeed. We will find delight.