As part of our #MeditationHacks series, Tenku Ruff, a Zen priest, answers the question about finding the balance between trying too hard and not trying hard enough.
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.
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.
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.
Read more from our #MeditationHacks series…
Your Partner Disapproves?
A new meditator’s spouse disapproves of their newfound practice. Susan Piver, founder of The Open Heart Project, answers.
Other Ways to Practice?
Vipassana teacher Konda Mason answers the question: “Is it OK if I find other ways to be meditative besides sitting on a cushion following my breath?”
Not Enlightened Yet?
Author and musician Miguel Chen comforts a practitioner who doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to enlightenment.
Buddhist Traditions: Which Way to Go?
Rev. angel Kyodo williams, founder of the Center for Transformative Change, advises on what to do when confronted with too many choices.
Author and psychoanalyst, Pilar Jennings, offers advice to a practitioner who continues to feel unworthy and unloved.
Sleepy Mind, Monkey Mind?
Anita Feng, teacher for the Blue Heron Zen Community in Seattle, helps a practitioner navigate the path between drowsiness and daydreaming.
Is Meditation Painful?
Buddhist teacher Mushim Patricia Ikeda suggest alternatives when meditation becomes too painful.
Don’t Like Meditating?
Lila Kate Wheeler, author and trainer at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, answers what to do if you don’t like to meditate.
Practicing for Myself?
A Mahayana Buddhist who is encouraged to practice for the benefit of all sentient being feels like they are only practicing for their own benefit. Venerable Thubten Chodron answers.
Meditation Leading to an Unstable Mind?
Josh Bartok, a Zen teacher, suggest what to do if meditating leads to an unstable mind.
Still a Schmuck?
A reader asks Sylvia Boorstein: “What’s the point of practice if it’s not making me a better person?”
Overwhelmed by Emotions?
Author and lay Zen teacher Susan Moon is asked: “Should I stop meditating when emotions begin to overwhelm me?”
Practicing on Your Own?
An isolated practitioner asks dharma teacher Mitchell Ratner where to look for community.