Thanks to Mr. Rogers, This is How I Think About Meditation
Love isn’t a perfect state of being. It’s an active noun like struggle. —Mr. Rogers
Like love, meditation is an active noun. It's not a perfect state of calm.
Meditation can actually be quite turbulent. But if it’s approached skillfully, it doesn’t need to be a struggle. This raises the question, what’s the difference between struggle and turbulence? Here’s some dictionary definitions:
1) make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction
2) strive to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance
1) violent or unsteady movement of air or water
2) conflict; confusion
Similar, for sure. But the distinctions are telling. There can be turbulence (unsteadiness or conflict) without struggle (forceful effort).
So much of meditation is about observing. When we observe our minds and our hearts, sometimes there’s a lot of turbulence. In order to respond appropriately, we need to see the turbulence clearly. Adding struggle to the mix makes it harder to see clearly. It’s like getting stuck in traffic AND then getting angry and blowing your horn. It doesn’t make the cars move, it just adds another layer of unpleasantness to an already unpleasant situation.
We have a strong habit of struggling. Culturally, struggle is lauded. It’s also uses up a lot of energy. The practice of yoga offers an interesting parallel. Yoga promotes relaxation and health not because it’s easy, but because it’s difficult.
A big part of yoga involves learning to move through the difficulty with ease, without struggling. Working hard — sometimes really hard — but without over-stressing the nervous system. Actually, yoga is all about stress. How do we engage in something stressful and come out feeling fresh and alive? Not depleted or key-ed up.
When I meditate, I keep a close eye on my attraction to struggle. And when it comes up, I try to observe it, and make friends with it. I think that would make Mr. Rogers proud.