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Dec 31
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Meditation: 10 Reasons NOT to Do It

polar bearCOLUMN: Good Practice…on it’s head!

guest article by Acharya Michael Greenleaf
originally published on Samadhi Cushions

These days, everyone’s talking about the reasons to practice mindfulness. What about the reasons that make meditating a bad idea? Below, from my own experience, are 10 reasons NOT to practice sitting meditation:

1. You Can’t Afford To. You’ve been too moving fast, working too hard, talking, texting, worrying. You’ve even “lost it” a few times. (That wasn’t pretty!) Slow down now and that stuff will catch up with you.

2. Later Is Big, Now Is Small. Meditation is in the moment. But you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. The moment is a squeeze play. It’s only now – which never ends. Why downsize? Think bigger. Think ahead.

3. The Best For Last. Meditation is about waking up the best in you. One day, the world will require your best, but today? Look around. Why waste your gifts on what isn’t working? You can do better.

4. You’re Smarter Than That. To sit and meditate you’ve got to believe. In something — or nothing — you just have to care. Caring is hard work. It’s overrated. It’s commitment. Don’t tie yourself down. Work smart, not hard.

5. It’s Not Cool Anymore. Meditation practice is like breathing, everyone’s doing it. Even doctors recommend making time for contemplation. Sure, it’s a human thing, but let’s face it, you’ve never been a joiner.

6. It Doesn’t Pay. When dinner’s made, you eat. When work’s done, you get paid. When you travel, you get a T-shirt. When you play the lottery, you can win. When you meditate, you breathe and…simply be? Where is the payoff in that?

7. TV. Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, Louis CK, Nashville (for the music), Cosmos (for thinking). TV has never been better. Who wants to sit through your show? The main character’s a mystery. Where’s the development? That pilot’s headed for cancellation. Fire the writer!

8. Meditation Is Lonely. You might be sitting in a group, but meditate and you’re pretty much on your own. Breathing, thinking, feeling, being (what is that?). Are there even words for this stuff? Sure, everyone alive goes through it. Why should you?

9. You Can’t ‘Work It’. History can be rewritten. The future can be imagined. The present? What’s the angle? Who controls the narrative? Do you want to leave your story to someone you don’t know?

10. Multi-Tasking. We all have to be somewhere. Who says the mind needs to be there too? What kind of freedom is that? Besides, you have other things to think about. Like your blog post and your sitting practice. What’s the point of a mind if there’s nothing on it?

Author’s Note: Sure, sometimes formal sitting meditation isn’t practical. But other times we just aren’t in the mood. We have a reason for the things we do. Sometimes our “reasons” aren’t reasonable. As Sakyong Mipham points out, whether we sit or not, our mind is always holding on to something. That makes us all meditators. How can we pretend not to care who we are? Have you hugged your mind today?

Michael GreenleafAcharya Michael Greenleaf is a volunteer at Samadhi Cushions who works on marketing and internet issues. He is also a meditation teacher with many years of experience in the Shambhala community. Michael is a member of the core faculty for Mukpo Institute at Karme Choling. His professional training includes a CPA as well as an MBA in finance. Michael credits his Buddhist practice with helping him see the dreamlike nature of financial information.

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10 responses to “ Meditation: 10 Reasons NOT to Do It ”
  1. Celeste Budwit-Hunter
    Jan 10, 2015

    I love it! It really gets us where we live.

  2. This is a little snarky. I’m not sure it was meant to be ‘funny’ . Satire is aggressive and I’m a little shocked at such an approach from an Acharya

  3. Melissa Howell
    Jan 4, 2015

    Write more, Acharya Greenleaf! That is one of the best articles I’ve ever seen in the Shambhala Times! Thank you!

  4. Molly De Shong
    Jan 4, 2015

    So true– sadly! Thanks Michael.

  5. Andrea Darby
    Jan 2, 2015

    Thank goodness I procrastinated my practice so that I was available to read this. Very funny, and now…

  6. Ok…so now I feel I should wait at least a week before showing up for meditation at a Shambhala center…it wouldn’t be cool to show up the first week of January with all the losers like me who have made mindfulness their new year’s resolution!

    What is really funny is Michael ability to “see the dream like nature of financial information” as the result of his meditation practice. I feel inspired now!

  7. Lisa Harris
    Jan 1, 2015

    This is awesome – thank you Michael!

  8. Jan Watson
    Dec 31, 2014

    Michael – you are just tooo much! Love Jan

  9. Arthur van Damme
    Dec 31, 2014

    These 10 reasons are of course cynical. Somehow they suggest, there would be NO sensible reasons not to meditate. But there is a real serious one. Of a very different sort.
    Meditation occurs in a context. Basically meditation is a tool available to all or most human beings. Meditation lets us deal with reality as it is. It has calming side effects and may let us accept things that are otherwise unacceptable for us. It may also sedate our natural warning systems called emotions (oh no, we are not ignoring them but we will see them come and go … until they are gone and only bliss stays). Meditation is a human right, it is our natural heritage. Basic instructions may help, but for the rest we are completely self-sufficient in this, the Buddha meditated all on himself.
    In Tibetan Buddhism and then specifically in Shambhala the context changes. Meditation will eventually turn into a relationship with the lama (oh yes, but the lama is us. Not.). This takes away your freedom and makes us dependent on somebody else for our liberation.
    In the beginning of our Shambhala career, Vajrayana and its true implications are hidden in mystery. In seemingly secular Shambhala courses people start meditating. They experience the benefits of meditation, their resistances melt. In longer meditation retreats we become drunk and open to everything. We start accepting funny language, uniforms, magic thinking, spitting on democracy. We start accepting the court and the unbelievable language of it. We will experience it as “proper”, “dignified”, “uplifted”!
    We feel good, meditation does that, the other Smurfs around us are all blue too, so blue must be natural. Chögyam Trungpa might call it “we become properly processed”. In effect, meditation enhanced by group pressure will help in letting go of our critical facilities. (No, don’t give me that “Do not believe anything on mere hearsay etc.”) Then, once we are ready, we are lured into a devotional relationship with the lama. A relationship called Samaya. Breaking that connection is put under threatening spells reminiscent of Nigerian Voodoo rituals used to bind slaves mentally so they do not dare to run away ever.
    Summarizing, the reasoning goes like this: there may be no good reason not to meditate as a free being. But there is a good reason not to even start meditation within Tibetan Buddhism in any form. Because it is the bait that will hook you up. Here meditation functions as a sneaky tool of seduction to the lama-system, to slavery instead of freedom. This may cost you your life-time and worse: a lot of money. Please meditate – truly.

  10. Greg Heffron
    Dec 31, 2014

    This is REALLY funny. Instead of Be Here Now, I can be all Been There, Done That, Movin On…

    It’s just like Samsara except it’s… Well, actually, it’s just exacly like Samsara. :D

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