Six Ways Not to Approach Meditation

Titan realm meditation

What about titan meditation? In some ways, this approach is as bad as the hell realm. Who can sit the longest? Who can sit the most still? How many hours did you put in? The sense of competition brings out our envy, our self-doubt, and our competitive nature. Who are we trying to beat? What does winning in the meditation game mean? When we’ve out-sat everybody else, we are still left with ourselves: we are right back where we started in the first place. Closely related to this attitude is the matter of asking people about their meditation practice. How do we feel when people ask us about ours? Meditation practice is intensely personal. It is one of the most intimate parts of our lives. Tradition says only discuss practice with your teacher and with people who are your close practice companions. Such discussions are very helpful. They bring out aspects we may be overlooking. But beware of the competitive mind! Ask yourself, who am I trying to beat and why?


God realm meditation

God realm meditation has the sense of being above it all. In this approach, a person wants to become a saint or at least a hermit, removed from the confusion and the messiness of daily life, serene in seclusion, actual or imagined. In my experience, this superior attitude is often simply an avoidance mechanism, pride compensating for deep doubts about confidence or ability. The practice of meditation is not meant to remove us from life, but to bring us more intimately into life. So, one remedy here is to question the feeling of being better than others, of living life in a superior way.


Human realm meditation

Human realm meditation is motivated by the desire for results. This is not the desperation of the demon realm, but the desire that meditation be a productive use of our time. Much meditation instruction is presented in this way. Meditation is to improve ourselves, to improve our relationships, to become more centered, to become more balanced, to become more loving, etc. We practice expecting to receive something in return. As long as this expectation is operating we will never know ourselves. As one Tibetan teacher said, “Give up all hope for results.” We are not practicing meditation to produce something. Rather, it is a way of practicing being, and again, not being something, just being, being completely.


Ideally, the practice of meditation is not based on any of these six approaches. In practice, they arise in our experience all the time. We are human after all! We can, however, use the mindfulness and awareness we cultivate in our practice to know what is arising in us, to let it be there, but not to identify or merge with these habitual emotional patterns. This is a difficult practice, for it requires us to make an effort at being in a way we are not at all used to. Slowly, over time, we find that our efforts bear fruit: a way of being that isn’t any one of these six realms.

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