The First Noble Misunderstanding
There’s a lot of misunderstanding about meditation. In fact, says Karen Maezen Miller, that’s pretty much all that meditation is — the process of seeing how much you’ve misunderstood meditation and everything else.
The First Noble Misunderstanding
By Karen Maezen Miller / lionsroar.com

We might be drawn to meditation because we want more out of life and ourselves. We might want to be more centered, for example. More peaceful. More focused. More balanced. More patient. More mellow. More wise. More like my ex-boyfriend who liked to meditate.

These may be all the reasons we are drawn to meditation, but they are not the reasons we meditate. We meditate because there is a six-foot flame dancing on top of our heads. It has made us mighty uncomfortable for quite some time up there. We try to pretend otherwise, but have you noticed? We have a fire on our heads! It keeps crossing the containment lines! The temperature shoots up and we prance about, panicked, frantic, holding our breath lest we stoke the inferno, but it rages anyway. About the time our eyebrows singe, we might heed the call of rescue.

That’s how bad it has to get. If meditation is one of an array of self-improvement options you are considering, you probably won’t do it. By all means, try the ninety-minute massage first! Get the new wardrobe and the hair tint! Meditation is the option of having no other option, no higher goal, and no more righteous intention than saving your sorry ass from a living hell.

Everything happens when you meditate. Whole worlds are dismantled, innumerable scores are settled, grievous deeds are undone, and the entire universe settles at rest.

This is why I was so fortunate to have smacked headfirst into Zen meditation. Because in Zen, you see, we don’t meditate on anything. We don’t meditate on world peace, for instance, or loving-kindness, or forgiveness, or to acquire any of the lofty virtues that we or our dastardly neighbors so glaringly lack. Meditating on something else would just fuel the conflagration up top. We might be reminded — as if we needed reminding — of what we don’t have, how we don’t act, what we don’t like, who said what to whom and how lousy we feel because of it. We meditate instead to quench the flame on our heads, to quiet the torment and silence the roar. That alone brings salvation, peace, love, and forgiveness. How? By itself. We have a wellspring of all that within us, a deep and eternal aquifer of fire retardant, when we give ourselves the breathing room to find it.

That’s what we do in Zen meditation, or zazen. Breathe. Simply breathe, attending to our own breath as it rises and falls, fills and empties, counting it from one to ten and all over again just to give our brilliant brains something to do. We do this with our eyes open, looking at a wall or the floor in front of us. It’s easy to think we don’t know how to do it, and easy to think we’re not doing it right, but this is the way to see that thoughts like that are just — oh yeah, look at that — thoughts, and we start counting again.

“Imagine that your nose is two inches beneath your navel,” I read in one set of instructions. That may not be an appealing picture in your mind, so don’t picture it in your mind. Don’t picture it, and you’ll immediately learn something amazing about yourself. Just by hearing the words, you automatically release the cinch in your belly, and your breath instantly deepens and slows down. For all the wayward searching for truth and authenticity in our lives, breathing is the most original, authentic, and autonomous thing we do. You know how to breathe, and only you can do it.

“I feel dignified,” I wrote after my first solo attempt at sitting still. For the first time in what seemed like forever, I felt a breeze waft over my head. The breeze was my own breath. The breath was my own life. The dignity was my birthright.

Meditation is misunderstood because it doesn’t look like anything happens in those torturous few minutes of motionlessness. But everything happens when you meditate. Whole worlds are dismantled, innumerable scores are settled, grievous deeds are undone, and the entire universe settles at rest.

Most of us say about ourselves: “I have a hard time letting go.” Exhalation is the most complete expression of letting go, and we do it without thinking thirty thousand times a day. You know how to let go, and only you can do it.

Meditation is misunderstood as something you envision in your head, when in fact it is something to be seen with your own eyes. What you begin to see is that the place where you thought your life occurred — the cave of rumination and memory, the cauldron of anxiety and fear — isn’t where your life takes place at all. Those mental recesses are where pain occurs, but life occurs elsewhere, in a place we are usually too preoccupied to notice, too distracted to see: right in front of our eyes. The point of meditation is to stop making things up and see things as they are.

When I give meditation instruction these days, I ask students to lift their arms up to eye level, wiggle their fingers, and see for themselves. That’s where your life is, that’s where your life has always been, in front of you, and now you know how I got mine back.

From Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life, ©2010 by Karen Maezen Miller. Reproduced with permission of New World Library.

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
Rap News Special Edition: Hillary Clinton Vs Donald Trump
7 min · 22,170 views today · Hello world. RAP NEWS is back for a special episode on the 2016 USA Election mayhem, feat. Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump + a touch of Jill Stein & Gary Johnson. This one's...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 13,968 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 8,046 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Culture of Maximum Harm
Daniel Quinn · 6,168 views today · People have lived many different ways on this planet, but about ten thousand years ago there appeared one people who believed everyone in the world should live a single...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 5,554 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
The International Criminal Court May Start Prosecuting People Who Commit Crimes Against the Environment
Tara Smith · 3,408 views today · The International Criminal Court is not known for prosecuting people responsible for huge oil slicks, chopping down protected rainforests or contaminating pristine land. But...
Humanity's Greatest Challenges Aren't Technical, They're Human
8 min · 3,296 views today · Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is incomplete as we commonly know it. Later in his life, Maslow wrote about a stage beyond self-actualization. Nichol Brandford explains how to...
The Left Deserves Better Than Jill Stein
Kate Aronoff · 3,113 views today · Stein’s Green Party run doesn’t offer a plan to win, or to build power. The Left is capable of so much more.
Prince Ea Just Put The School System on Trial and Found it Guilty of Killing Free Thought
6 min · 2,818 views today · Albert Einstien once said "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid". Today Prince...
The Little Engine That Couldn't: How We're Preparing Ourselves and Our Children for Extinction
Daniel Quinn · 2,818 views today · In a recent semi-documentary film called Garbage, a toxic waste disposal engineer was asked how we can stop engulfing the world in our poisons. His answer was, "We'd have to...
The Journey From Syria (2016)
71 min · 2,483 views today · Reporter Matthew Cassel spent a year documenting the journey of Syrian jeweler Aboud Shalhoub as he travels from Turkey to Greece, and through Eastern Europe to the Netherlands...
Debt, Inequality and the Logic of Financial Violence
David Graeber · 1,988 views today · Five years after Occupy, organizer and anthropologist David Graeber speaks to ROAR about the power of finance, the history of inequality and the legacy of the movement.
Caitlin Moran's Posthumous Advice for Her Daughter
Caitlin Moran · 1,931 views today · My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to...
This Satirical Trump Vs. Bernie Debate Is Both Hilarious and Highly Disturbing
44 min · 1,605 views today · Comedians James Adomian (Bernie Sanders) and Anthony Atamanuik (Donald Trump) bring two of the most controversial candidates in history, head-to-head, or rather bald-to-toupee...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,246 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
10 Photos That Show the Magnificent Light Shining on Standing Rock
Josue Rivas · 1,099 views today · Despite all the news of pipeline regulation, court appeals, and activist arrests, Native photographer Josue Rivas reminds us that it is actually a peaceful place.
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 1,064 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
How You Can Support Standing Rock
Thane Maxwell · 1,056 views today · This is your pipeline battle too. Whatever you have to offer, we need it. Wherever you are, take one step deeper. Find your voice. Find your own front lines.
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 1,012 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Kids Killed by Guns: America's Daily Nightmare
3 min · 1,011 views today · On an average day in America, seven children and teenagers will be shot dead.Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost on one random day - 23 November 2013. Ten children...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
The First Noble Misunderstanding