Meditation: Chore or Core?

Some of us find ourselves not meditating as often as we think we should. We know there are benefits to meditation. We’d like to be calmer and clearer thinking, more peaceful, kind and compassionate. We wish our immune system were stronger. We’d like to be able to let go of the worry and anxiety, and we’d like to recover from stress more quickly. We know our spiritual life could use a boost and that meditation would help us tune in and understand a deeper truth. But it seems like work. It seems like an obligation. It is something we should do, but we resist; maybe because it is a should.

Maybe it reminds us of going to church when we were young when sitting still and quiet seemed like torture and what we really wanted to do on a Sunday was run around with our friends screaming at the top of our lungs having a ball. Sitting in a church pew may have seemed like time taken away from living, and now meditation feels something like that too.

Maybe it is time to switch around our thinking. We could take the mystic’s point of view that the point of life is to worship God and our activities either support or distract us from that intention. Going to church or meditating worshipfully are not chores for those who see those actions as central to their existence.

We could also adopt the view that time spent in meditation is when we get to be the most real. As we sit cross-legged on a cushion, the peripheral falls away and we have the opportunity to experience being in its pure form. In meditative repose, we just are. Our value is not determined by our achievements. In fact, the question of our value or lack of it is moot. We can chose to think that meditation is not a chore; it is the core. Meditation is not a means to an end. It is the end, and the beginning and the in-between. It is living time and beyond time.

If you find yourself postponing your meditation sessions, examine why. Notice whether you view meditation as a chore or as a core experience. Orient your mind away from the obligation to meditate because it would be good for you. Think of it as an opportunity to be awake and at rest—to be conscious and alive. Take the time and make the effort to give yourself the gift of time sitting alert and not doing. You deserve the gift, as do all beings. It is your birthright. It is your nature. Respect yourself by being quiet with yourself. Allow yourself the opportunity to be a part of life by stopping the action that keeps you separate.

At this moment what more need we seek?
As the Truth eternally reveals itself,
This very place is the Lotus Land of Purity,
This very body is the Body of the Buddha.

Hakuin Ekaku Zenji, Song of Meditation

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© 2003 Tom Barrett