About the Meditation Police

Over the years I’ve been teaching I’ve had many people who are learning meditation ask me questions beginning something like, “Are you allowed to…?”

This reveals a curious assumption that there is some kind of enforcement mechanism for meditation techniques — perhaps some kind of “Meditation Police” who will drag you kicking and screaming from your meditation cushion if you use some kind of unauthorized technique. Of course there is no such police force and no one knows what’s going on behind your gently closed eyelids as you’re meditating.

The important thing to ask yourself is: Does it work? Does this conduce to calmness? Does this help me to feel more at ease with myself? Does this help me to be kinder towards myself and others? If the answer is “yes” then continue doing it.

If on the other hand the answer is “no” then don’t immediately dismiss that approach out of hand. It may be that there are positive results and you’re not noticing them yet, or that the temporary discomfort that can accompany learning a new technique is giving you the impression that something isn’t working for you. So you may want to persist for a while to see if an approach to meditation you’ve been told is helpful actually is helpful for you, despite your initial reservations.

In the long term though, there’s just no point in continuing to use a technique that doesn’t work for you — even if that technique is “officially approved.”

So do give any one method a good try before discarding it, and beware of restlessly moving from method to method without really giving any of them a chance to work. Sometimes we can get caught up in thinking that there’s some “ideal” method that will produce instant results, and so we keep digging lots of shallow wells, never finding any water. And sometimes we just have restless and impatient minds.