In the November 2018 issue of Lion’s Roar magazine, 14 Buddhist teachers answer the most frequently asked questions about challenges on the spiritual path. Here, Tenku Ruff examines finding the balance between trying too hard and too little in meditation practice.
Question: Sometimes I try really hard when I meditate, and sometimes I forget to do the technique and just hang out. Where’s the line between not trying hard enough and trying too much, between too rigid and too loose?
Tenku Ruff: Finding the balance between too tight and too loose is an ongoing, dynamic aspect of our practice. There is a constant fine-tuning that is more about returning to center over and over than getting it right.
As we practice, sometimes we find our minds drifting off and becoming complacent. This is the time to add a little extra energy. When we are pushing so hard that we find our teeth clenched or our shoulders tight, it is time to add a bit of spaciousness. More than attaining some final, perfect result, making these fine adjustments and returning to center over and over is the core of our practice.
This is what it means be a human being practicing Buddhism.
When I was starting practice in Japan, a Zen teacher told us the way practice works is that we build up our practice, then it falls apart. And then we build it up again, and it falls apart again. This is the way it goes.
Over the years, I’ve found great comfort in these words. This is what it means be a human being practicing Buddhism—no need for judgments about doing it right or wrong. The most important thing is to continue.