Can anybody meditate? by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on April 14, 2012 at 7:00 AM

The following is an excerpt from the book Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, published by Hyperion Books in 1994. Kabat-Zinn is the founder and director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Preventative and Behavioral Medicine. I highly recommend this book and Full Catastrophe Living, also by Kabat-Zinn for an excellent and comprehensive introduction to meditation.

Consider starting a practice of mindfulness meditation if you would like to deepen your awareness or concentration or for help with stress reduction. Next week's spiritual practice post will feature tips for starting your own mindfulness practice.

Can Anybody Meditate?

"I get asked this question a lot. I suspect people ask because they think that probably everybody else can meditate but they can't. They want to be reassured that they are not alone, that there are at least some other people they can identify with, those hapless souls who were born incapable of meditating. But it isn't so simple. 

Thinking you are unable to meditate is a little like thinking you are unable to breathe, or to concentrate or relax. Pretty much everybody can breathe easily. And under the right circumstances, pretty much anybody can concerntrate, anbody can relax.

People often confuse meditation with relaxation or some other special state that you have to get to or feel. When once or twice you try and you don't get anywhere or you didin't feel anything special, the you think you are one of those people who can't do it.

But, meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It's about feeling the way you feel. It's not about making the mind empty or still, although stillness does deepen in meditation and can be cultivated systematically. Above all, meditiation is about letting the mind be as it is and knowing something about how it is in this moment. It's not about getting somewhere else, but about allowing yourself to be where you already are. If you don't understand this, you will think you are constitutionally unable to meditate. But that's just more thinking, and in this case, incorrect thinking at that.

True, meditation does require energy and a commitment to stick with it. But then, wouldn't it be more accurate to say, "I won't stick with it," rather than, "I cant' do it'? Anybody can sit down and watch their breath or watch theri mind. And you don't have to be sitting. You could do it walking, standing, lying down, standing on one leg, running, or taking a bath. But to stay at it for even five minutes requires intentionality. To make it part of your life requires some discipline. So when people say they can't meditate, what they really mean is that they won't make time for it or that when they try, they don't like what happens. It isn't what they are looking for or hoping for. It doesn't fulfill their expectations. So maybe they should try again, this time letting go of their expectatons and just watchcing it."

by Jon Kabat-Zinn from Wherever You Go, There You Are, pages 33-4

Categories: Spiritual Practice, Spirituality, Transformation

Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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