Insufferable Meditators

On the New York Times, I saw a post titled Being and Mindfulness, and I don’t know why I read it, but I’m glad I did because it wasn’t all about what I’d feared. I had feared another presentation of Buddhism filtered through the New Age lens. There is that, but more to the point, Judith Warner writes:

For one thing, there’s the seemingly unavoidable problem that people who are embarked on this particular “journey of self-exploration,” as Pipher has called it, tend to want to talk, or write, about it. A lot. But what they don’t realize — because they’re so in the moment, caught in the wonder and fascination and totality of their self-experience — is that their stories are like dream sequences in movies, or college students’ journal entries, or the excited accounts your children bring you of absolutely hilarious moments in cartoons — you really do have to be the one who’s been there to tolerate it.

For the truth is, however admirable mindfulness may be, however much peace, grounding, stability and self-acceptance it can bring, as an experience to be shared, it’s stultifyingly boring.

Finally, someone said it!

Not that I feel that “mindfulness meditation” is stultifyingly boring. Nor do I find other people’s blabber about their mindfulness experiences to be a form of modern torture. I think meditation is great. I’m delighted when people choose to sit, and even more delighted when they weave it into their daily routine.

As I’ve written here before, I try to meditate twice a day, and my goal is to sit silently for two hours a day. From time to time I like to blog about it, especially because I remember what a lonely experience it once was to feel that I was the only meditator in rural Illinois. (Boy was I wrong!) But I also remember a time when I was that hyperactive 17 year old who’d just discovered meditation, the most amazing thing in the world, and wanted everyone to try it out. I have so much respect and gratitude for all those friends who didn’t block my phone number.

There are some bloggers who get riled up about an overemphasis on meditation. I think rightly so. Meditation isn’t the only form of Buddhist practice, but I wouldn’t sell it short. I can imagine that there’d be less frustration with people who sit silently on their tush if they did more of that and less blogging about it. But I digress…

I don’t rant on about meditation as I did in my teens, but my “mindful” style still gets on my friends’ nerves. When I refuse to stay out late because I want to stay home and meditate, you can see their eyes roll. Especially with this whole noble speech vs sarcasm issue, for many it seemed as though being more mindful of one’s words was anathema to being human. So while Judith Warner isn’t speaking for me, I’m glad she wrote what she did because she’s most certainly speaking for some of my good friends.

But don’t let that thought stop you from meditating!

2 Replies to “Insufferable Meditators”

  1. I was discussing this with someone the other day. As a writer, I find the word ‘mindfulness’ to be quite bland and vague, not really worthy of conveying the impact of the dharma it purports to describe. And as you say, the whole ‘mindfulness movement’ strikes me as containing the inherent danger of watering down the dharma to yet another flavor of self-involvement, dharma’s exact antithesis.

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