One of the most frequent complaints I get from my meditation students is the concern that they can’t meditate because they can’t concentrate; can’t clear the thoughts, clutter, and commotion from their minds.

Relax. The goal of meditation is not clearing the mind of thoughts or making it a “blank slate” (at least not the way I teach meditation). The goal of meditation is not to relax. Imagine pressuring yourself to relax? How is that going to work out?

Relaxation is fairly reliable by-product of meditation, but it is not the primary goal. Just pay attention to what is happening now, without preconceptions, agendas, and conditions, and see how you feel. You just might feel relaxed.

Meditation is a process not a product. In fact, we ourselves are processes not products. And when we treat ourselves like products we’ll only be frustrated. Likewise, meditation is about paying attention to the process and since processes are neither good nor bad, whatever is happening now can be OK. There is a real opportunity here to “go with the flow” – the process of what is happening now.

If your thoughts are racing, notice racing thoughts. If you’re laden with regret or worry, notice regret or worry. You’re still meditating; you’re not doing it wrong! The difference is that you are aware of these things and with practice you can make choices about where your attention goes and get skilled at disentangling attention from stories that are distressing.

Meditation is not about attaining a special state; it’s about paying attention. It’s not about achievements or outcomes. Rather it’s about noticing whatever is happening without judging that as good or bad; without generating opinions about it. Relax the opinions and real relaxation may not be far behind.

 

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]

Good things come in small packages especially when it is The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy edited by the poet John Brehm and published by Wisdom. Wisdom has a habit of producing beautifully crafted books, packed with, well, wisdom! By way of disclosure, two of these books are mine (108 Metaphors for Mindfulness and […]

A surfer and a shrink, sounds like the start of a joke … walk into a bar … . What do they talk about? Turns out the surfer dude is an expert on fear, has even written a book about it and the shrink is a crack snowboarder. They’ve got a lot to talk about. […]

Stephen Batchelor: Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World contains twenty-five years of his writing. You may be familiar with some of these articles from his contributions to Tricycle and I recently enjoyed reading his article arguing for a Buddhism 2.0 in a Buddhist academic journal. This book contains three new contributions, making the book […]