“It is indeed a radical act of love just to sit down and be quiet for a time by yourself. Sitting down in this way is actually a way to take a stand in your life as it is right now, however it is. We take a stand here and now, by sitting down, and by sitting up.” —Jon Kabat-Zinn
For years I was a reluctant meditator.
I took to the cushion because I was convinced there was something wrong with me that needed fixing. I was trying to figure out how to be the right person in order to have the kind of life I was supposed to have—that elusive life with the right job, partner, body, clothes, house, vacations, investments, etc.
I didn’t realize this was my motivation—I just operated from unexamined beliefs and assumptions that constantly goaded me to do whatever I needed to do to “get it right.” (Though of course I was never clear exactly what “right” looked like, which is part of the scam!)
These are the same unnamed beliefs that convinced me to do one more diet, to try yet another promising exercise routine, or to switch partners or jobs on a whim.
So I sat. And sometimes I didn’t. (Which just proved how much I really needed to!) Either way, it was a battle.
But I eventually started to see some changes in myself. I became slower to judge, less likely to react, and I didn’t complain as much. I couldn’t say how this happened. It’s not like I could draw a direct line between meditating and not complaining. But something was happening. I just wondered if I could meditate without such a struggle.
It’s Just a Step to the Right
Then I heard Zen teacher Cheri Huber suggest that meditation is simply sitting down and spending time with yourself. Nothing special to do, no mystical states to achieve, no messy humanness to transcend. Just sitting down and saying, “Hey, Jenn. How’s it going?”
This change in perspective changed everything. I shifted from meditating in spite of myself to meditating with myself. I began to sit with the person I am instead of sitting to become someone else.
Meditation became, as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, an act of taking a stand in my life as it is right now. Yes, things are uncertain, sometimes I’m too busy, and in general life doesn’t look like I thought it would. Sitting down to hang out with myself acknowledges all of that and says, “Yeah, isn’t it crazy being human?!”
It’s an embrace of who I am and all that is. It’s a time to be with someone (me) who wishes me well and who marvels at what’s going on, whether that be a pounding headache or a love-soaked heart.
In this way, meditation is a radical act of love and acceptance, which is what we’re all really looking for in life.