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You Don’t Need to Meditate

in YogOpinions

by J. Brown

Meditating Dog

Hype surrounding meditation abounds. Wherever you look, someone is extolling the virtues of meditation while unwittingly sabotaging its occurrence. The intent is to help people better manage stress and enjoy more fulfilling lives. But what many refer to as meditation is often nothing of the sort and, with all the grandiose claims being bandied about, easily engenders more problems than it solves.

From a technical standpoint, there are rarely any distinctions being made between the yogic concept of meditation and what are readily being called “mindfulness exercises.” Even among yoga teachers and experienced practitioners, there is not much clarity regarding the last three limbs of Patanjali’s eight-fold path. The principles of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (enstasy) are often being lumped together. Without getting mired in the semantics of ancient sanskrit words or in the subtle aspects of mind and experience, what is important to note is that there is little guidance being offered as to how any of the ideals being touted might be brought to fruition. Consequently, meditation becomes a magic pill that relies upon placebo effect and creates a dissociative hamster-wheel of seeking.

This happens with particular irony in the yoga world, where meditation is heralded as a badge of legitimacy. To say that “I meditate” is a way of signifying depth, that someone’s practice is not just a physical workout. Yet, more often than not, the practice is just a physical workout with a few minutes of sitting thrown in at the end so that people can tell others that they meditate. The actual practice amounts to a sweaty aerobic activity involving yoga poses where the heart rate is up, the mind goes out, and the “flow” takes over. Meditation is thought to happen when the focus goes inward and the mind is brought present and calmed. However, the few minutes of the runner’s high buzz that is enjoyed for some brief moments following the barrage of a standard vinyasa class are not likely to produce the many benefits that teachers espouse and we see listed throughout media outlets.

As J. Krishnamurti, one of the first pioneers of yoga philosophy in the West, put it: “Don’t fool yourself by all the books they write about meditation, all the people that come to tell you how to meditate, or the groups that are formed in order to meditate. We must be clear what it is that we are seeking, each one of us. When we say we are seeking truth or we are seeking God or we are seeking a perfect life and so on, we must already have in our mind a pattern or an image or an idea of what it is. So in seeking, is there not implied in that word, that we have lost something and we are going to find it? The first thing to realize is not to seek.”

The suggestion is that the context in which an endeavor for understanding meditation takes place determines the outcome of the endeavor. When we are told that meditation will alleviate everything from emotional imbalance to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and will bring about everything from increased fertility to a knowledge of our true selves and maybe even enlightenment, its kind of hard to not be seeking for those things when we are sitting uncomfortably waiting for the allotted time to be done. And if we are seeking for something, whatever it may be, then we ensure its absence.

Listening to Deepak Chopra give a guided visualization about our inter-connectedness to nature and universal consciousness is a beautiful thing that likely has a positive affect for many. But this is not meditation. Nor is observing breath, chanting mantras, performing physical postures or sitting still. These sorts of techniques are intended to be a vehicle for concentrating the mind and easing the body, whereby some conditions are encouraged that tend towards an experience of meditation. But these techniques are not meditation in and of themselves.

The distinction between “mindfulness exercises” and the potential gifts that come from engaging in them is profoundly important. Yoga classes that are working the body in an aggresive manner or are placing too high an emphasis on accomplishing form are not setting a stage that allows for meditation. If the student is striving in practice, inadvertently or not, then this will most certainly find its way into any seated repose. And attempting to meditate as an activity, rather than understanding it to be the natural result of mindful practice, imposes a sense of lacking when there is none.

Meditation is a description of what happens as a consequence of healthy choices, not a prescription for bringing them about. When we have an intimate relationship with our actual lives, it simply occurs. Stop meditating. Learn to take pleasure in a regular practice that soothes the system and the rest is coming.

J. Brown is a yoga teacher, writer and founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, NY.  His writing has been featured in Yoga Therapy in Practice, Yoga Therapy Today and the International Journal of Yoga Therapy.  Visit his website at yogijbrown.com

70 comments… add one
  • “Listening to Deepak Chopra give a guided visualization about our inter-connectedness to nature and universal consciousness is a beautiful thing that likely has a positive affect for many. But this is not meditation. ”
    Very well said! I wonder though, how in this modern-age one can connect to a meditative life without first having to sometimes make it an activity in and of itself?

  • Suzette McAtee

    As a “traditional” hatha yoga teacher, I agree with so many points in this article… but it would have been more powerful, meaningful and enlightening had the author bothered to address his definition of meditation. Withholding that crucial aspect gives an incomplete picture of meditation, which, I do believe, is part of his negative gripe in the first place. This article had so much potential, but actually mirrors the inadequacy of current common Western yoga philosophy. Wanted to share, but I don’t see it being of true benefit to anyone.

    • Andrew

      Something about this makes me sad. As I was reading it, I could not truthfully connect to the intention of this. How do we support each other? I apologize that I could not feel a genuine inspiration to read the whole thing, but I was not feeling a loving energy, I was sensing an energy of patronizing those who may be using the word “meditation” in sense that the author may not agree with, and there for sought to give clarity. I hope we all learn understanding through practice. We in truth are not going anywhere and I do not expect one to realize this through mere telling them “you are not going anywhere” One must have a sincere ripeness with in, this will manifest in many ways. We can speak to someone and tell them all there is only god, no need to seek god, because it is present. But if we do not embody that quality in our expression we only share the lack of wisdom and therefore perpetuate ignorance. We can be loving be open and be humble, this may express the qualities more that we wish to speak of.

      • sa sa

        i agree with you andrew. this article sounds very rough, and although i agree with some of it, i also really do enjoy and experience the great healing power of sitting in meditation.
        namaste, sat nam 🙂 . love and peace 🙂 , sa sa

    • Andrew

      Thanks Suzette

  • Mirjana Petrović

    The author gave the answer in the last paragraph: “Meditation is a description of what happens as a consequence of healthy choices, not a prescription for bringing them about.”

  • jennifer a.

    This article smacks of disdain for those who are perhaps at a different point on the journey than the author. Those people also may be “getting there” in ways the author disagrees with. While no one wants meditation to become a mockery of itself through over-exposure in various arenas, it’s better than a kick in the head that more people are at least giving it a shot.

    • diarrhea

      this article smacks of j brown needing to express himself. sad…

  • Sandy Reid

    Hmmmm. Food for thought. So many definitions of meditation in our culture. I think there is a lot of information at WIKOPEDIA, where (and if you look it up you’ll see) they explore the many diffferent types of meditation around the world, and clearly state “it is hard to define.” Here is just one idea of a definition listed in a sidebar: •”[M]editation refers to a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration. ” Anyone who has tried to establish aregular meditation practice in the classis sense of sitting still, know how very difficult it can be. I’ll say no more, except to say that I teach meditation. There seems to be a hunger for it. But just as we grow in our linguistic, social and thinking skills over a lifetime, so the practice of meditatio changes as we do. It is not like learning a routine skill like riding a bike, but then again that’s a good way to approach it.

  • paul

    Yes, there are cheesynesses, but meditation is not over-hyped. Meditation is usually understood as a practice designed to engage stillness. Observing the breath and chanting mantras are both meditation if done with concentration, so too an asana practice, even jogging, etc. Reimagining meditation as, “a description of what happens as a consequence of healthy choices, not a prescription for bringing them about,” imposes a far more difficult way to engaging stillness, where ‘healthy choices’ are always in doubt. ‘Healthy choices’ (whatever these may be) are ancillary to meditation, supports but not requirements. Meditation is goal oriented, which is not to say expectations don’t get in the way, especially of maintaining a certain meditative state. If meditation is to be the dhyana of pantanjali, little of what what the author is correct.

    I wonder if the article is a koan of some sort, because “if we are seeking for something, whatever it may be, then we ensure its absence” means whatever agenda of this article, or anyone, cannot possibly be.

    • peace to all

      paul, with the greatest respect and in the interests of clarifying the understanding of meditation in yoga, breath observation and chanting mantras are not meditation. These practices are employed as an aid to focus the mind to a state of dharana- concentration. Meditative absorbtion- dhyana- may flow from there, but this is a spontaneous arising and cannot be made to come about by menatl will.

      • paul

        With your definition they are not meditation, but with normal everyday use of ‘meditation’ they are. For instance,
        Psychology Today calls meditation “the practice of turning your attention to a single point of reference.” Too, there are different definitions of dhyana from Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu strains, which do not agree with your definition (or each other). Most all of what I see under the name “yoga” does not meet what I understand as yoga but I must use the common usage because that is how language works; there is a time for uhhhhing at windmills, but in the cases of ‘meditation’ and ‘yoga’ in English that was several decades ago.

        Making an effort and having a goal does not mean straining. Creating the conditions to encourage something is making an effort and having a goal, and this does not mean there is a guarantee; the plowed and planted field does not guarantee crops. If meditation was truly spontaneous, all efforts, preliminaries, these and any words etc, are pointless because there is no pattern, and too there could be no chosen object of concentration for dhyana.

        Though I would agree that dhyana occurs as an effortless dharana, I disagree that in yoga dhyana is considered spontaneous, but as these are such semantical issues, I am curious where you got this understanding of dhyana as spontaneous, whether from your own experience or from a teacher or elsewhere.

        • peace to all

          hi Paul, i use the word spontaneous in the meaning of naturally arising. That is, an unforced effortless occurrence that comes about from, as you state, the right conditions prevailing. I’m saying that the will of mind can’t make it happen and that state may flow from the state of dharana – being linked to the meaningful object of our choice. Jason Gan says it very well below.

        • Paul- I would chime in here to say that the ideas I am presenting come from my own understanding and the combined teachings of Krishnamacharya and UG Krishnamurti, as articulated by Mark Whitwell. The suggestion is not that there is no effort, only that no effort is required. Mindful practice is the fertile soil by which gifts sprout, but this does not imply a goal. Sure, we’d like to have the fruits born but reaching for that result most certainly impedes its occurrence.

          I think of meditation as a siddhi, a blessing bestowed as a natural result of appropriate practice, behavior and attitudes. If the context for the practice is based on the premise that something is lacking then striving (different from straining) is inevitable. And, more importantly, we deny the completeness of what is.

          Thanks for carrying on the conversation.

          • paul

            I am not familiar with any of those three, so cannot comment, but again my point is that ‘meditation’ is known to cover a lot of different meanings and to not qualify it with how it is being used is a disservice to the reader, and in its way an (inadvertent) insult, to those who use it differently. So, to take meditation as a siddhi in your explained context is one thing (though to me, while gratitude is good if not essential, is a misunderstanding of siddhi, as meditation/dhyana is approachable and encouraging it is not going to lead away to abuse, a hazzard of most siddhis, themselves difficult to approach), but outside of this layered context it is confusing, mostly for the various jumbled semantic reasons, but also I see it as slightly discouraging, preferring a wait and whatever to an engage and be open.

            More interesting to me, is how people arrive at these concentrated states, whether by ‘healthy choices’ or a more direct approach, what these are, and too how to encourage others to proceed in this without depression.

  • “Meditation” is much misunderstood when Eastern traditions were transmitted over and transposed onto Western culture(s). In the context of “classes”, the word itself has come to mean the practice of meditative methods or a vast toolbox of prescribed instructions. However, technically, “meditation” is not something that you “do”.

    Meditation means submission/absorption/embodiment (wholly) within a transformative process that is naturally occurring. If transformation is not already forthcoming (or the self is not wholly within such process), then there is no actual meditation (absorption); rather, what you do comprise of only the learning of particular prescribed “meditative methods”.

    Nevertheless, practicing the meditative methods can affect relaxation, mindfulness, better concentration, which is beneficial compared to being “stressed”.

    So this article serves mainly as a exercise about semantics and philosophy, much in the same sense that real Yoga isn’t what is popularly practiced in the mainstream.
    In fact, real Yoga is meditation (awareness of the self).
    There is no need to achieve a particular state; when you are aware, you are aware.
    i.e. You do not really have to check to see if it’s there if you know that it’s there.
    (That is like going to see a doctor to check if your heart is still functioning.)

    Point #2 that J. Brown’s article makes is an opinion proposed by Mark Whitwell, that the systematized prescription of methods are part of pedagogy and culture that are no less right than you, however indoctrination establishes and reinforces an hierarchical belief system through the mechanisms of popularity, branding, marketing and opportunity. (Whenever there is a market, there will be interests by the bodies of authority and power to seize direction that market. That is the prakriti of human nature and socio-politics of governance.)

    It is absolutely vital to become aware that indoctrinated methods represent the external, whereas the path to Yoga is the opposite: the internal. Thus, real meditation is not the following of meditation, but rather the natural process of allowing the beauty within to manifest on its own terms.

  • diarrhea

    U need to meditate more and write less.

  • renaissance hombre

    “To say that “I meditate” is a way of signifying depth, that someone’s practice is not just a physical workout. Yet, more often than not, the practice is just a physical workout with a few minutes of sitting thrown in at the end so that people can tell others that they meditate.”

    Remind me to avoid your classes, you pompous judgemental twit.

  • YogaNerdMD

    Sorry, what IS meditation, then?
    I hate these articles that tell me I’m “doing it wrong” and then provide no other guidance. Now I feel like a moron.

    • renaissance hombre

      Don’t feel too bad yoganerdmd. you’re in good company with the author of this drivel.

      • YogaNerdMD

        🙂 Yay!
        Sometimes the best way to remind us of the value of our OWN values and methods is to be confronted with someone who thinks the exact opposite (I repeat this mantra when the subject of politics comes up…)
        From what I can tell from the comments, both you and I are in good company….

        • renaissance hombre

          Cheers yoganerdMD!

          “To say that “I meditate” is a way of signifying depth…”
          To write condescending articles implying you know about meditation, while others don’t is a way to signify shallowness.
          Personally, I like to take a few meditative moments after my practice. Since I practice at home, there is nobody around to impress. Nor has this ever entered my mind. I don’t care if anyone knows about it. I don’t know anyone who cares whether I meditate either. When I teach, we also often take a moment to meditate and be still at the end of practice. Nobody trying to signify depth. Never thought of it that way at all. I think the author of this supercilious pap is projecting his own inadequacies, while at the same time giving his thesaurus a work out…

  • Rod

    From my reading, the author makes a number of logical fallacies and spends most of his criticizing others, rather than offering constructive and well-considered thoughts. At the risk of making the same mistakes, here’s a quick deconstruction of what I see as some of the problems of it:

    Early on he mentions:
    Without getting mired in the semantics of ancient sanskrit words or in the subtle aspects of mind and experience, what is important to note is that there is little guidance being offered as to how any of the ideals being touted might be brought to fruition.

    To my mind, this is analogous to saying:
    Without getting mired in the semantics of mathematics or in the subtle aspects of algorithms and computer hardware, what is important to note is that there is little understanding as to computers actually work.

    That is to say, if you don’t try to understand subtleties and complexities of something, it’s not really fair to say that nobody understands it or can teach it. Especially with something as subtle as meditation.

    The next bit
    To say that “I meditate” is a way of signifying depth, that someone’s practice is not just a physical workout. Yet, more often than not, the practice is just a physical workout with a few minutes of sitting thrown in at the end so that people can tell others that they meditate.

    is clearly an ad hominem attack that is just the author’s own internal criticisms of other people.

    He continues:
    Listening to Deepak Chopra give a guided visualization about our inter-connectedness to nature and universal consciousness is a beautiful thing that likely has a positive affect for many. But this is not meditation.

    This is starting to get to the core of his piece, made explicit is his last paragraph:
    Meditation is a description of what happens as a consequence of healthy choices, not a prescription for bringing them about.

    So this is really what J. Brown is getting at— he’s decided to arrogate the term “meditation” to his own definition, and criticize everybody who uses it differently than him. Meh.

    • sa sa

      thank you rod. i noticed these points, too . sat nam, ..peace 🙂

  • Supreme Judge of All Yoga Knowledge

    This is bullshit.

    So glad you figured it all out for all of us.

    Maybe this is the poor writer’s experience, but it sure is not mine. This is why it’s good to have more than one teacher and not let others do your thinking for you.

  • sarah

    I found this discouraging and unhelpful. I much prefer articles that say that any little bit of effort you make is a positive thing that can help you in various ways. That gets people excited and encourages them turn to yoga and meditation. This piece makes me think, “well then what’s the use, if I have to fix my whole life first before I’d see any good from meditating.”

    I don’t know one is expected to have that “intimate relationship with her/his actual life” the author speaks of without a little effort here and there and without starting from the beginning. Yes, meditation gets a lot of good press, but nobody expects to get all the answers within a short session or course. And the author needn’t worry so much about those people who take a few moments after a strenuous activity to meditate either — it’s like he’s calling them phonies. That’s baffling to me.

  • Mirjana Petrović

    Thanks, Jason! Meditation comes from within oneself, one can not “do” meditation, therefore no prescription would do. “Effort” is the complete opposite of meditation. Putting effort in order to meditate wouldn’t get you there. And, yes – you have to leave the expectations behind. You have to leave everything, let go of everything. Leave control, effort, hopes. Just be.

    • renaissance hombre

      Just be. And do…

      • Mirjana Petrović

        Don’t… And see what happens. 🙂

        • renaissance hombre

          Don’t is doing…

          • Mirjana Petrović


  • Abby

    I am going to chime in and say that this is a great article! It educates us. Many people think they are “meditating” when they engage in practices designed to bring about mindfulness. Meditation is not a process; it’s a state. Let’s not discount these practices. After all, they do help people and can help people to meditate.

    Dharana. Dhyana. Samadhi.

  • One cannot liken the words of jiddu Krsnamurti and yoga, because Jiddu did not follow the tradtions of yoga, hence its impossible. Jiddu did not prescribe to any tradition.

    One can also not say that patanjali (even though he wrote the yog sutras) ever had yoga in mind. Patanjali was a dualist, when the essence of yoga is “union” with the Divine/God/Shiva (or whatever you may call it)

    The essence of mediation is to go beyond mind. Yes in theory there is no difference between “mindfulness” and meditation because the True yogin should be able to do so interchangeably within life.

    Yoga classes that place emphasis on asana vs dhayna are not setting the aspirant up for one pointedness. The sole purpose of asanas was for the yogin to be able so sit for longer periods in one pointed Samadhi.

    Maybe i’m wrong and off base, but this is what my tradition of Trika teaches. Emphasis is on abiding within, not outward postures.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Daniel @ Yoga for the Mind

  • To those who feel that this post is negative and unhelpful, I do apologize. Honestly, my intent was to be provocative and push back against what I perceive to be a lot of fluff and “bleaching” of meditation to sell people stuff.  Having said that, upon further reflection, I may have been a little bit reckless in my execution.  If having a practice of sitting is helping someone to feel more centered in themselves and have greater appreciation for life then I certainly am not trying to take that away. However, if the effort around meditation is an imposition or is done as an attempt to make something happen then I continue to maintain it is counterproductive.  I don’t claim to be any authority. I am merely trying to understand things in myself and have interest in engaging others in spirited dialogue on these matters. I welcome everyone’s discernment and criticism. Thank you for reading and expressing your views.

    • YogaNerdMD

      Thank you for your reply! It’s always nice to see the original author engage in a dialog, especially confronted with a negative response.

      Your reply helps me understand your message much better – frustration with the “marketing” of asana is one thing, watching people “sell” something as personal and spiritual as meditation takes bastardization to another level.

      I also appreciate your message as reassurance to those “disappointed” by their meditation experience: giving up on expectations and goals is a likely barrier for many who come to meditation with the promise you mention.

      I always maintain that there are many paths to truth. In one of her “exercises” recently, Sally Kempton said that she spent YEARS listening to her own thoughts during meditation practice before she was able to quiet things down! That made me feel much better about my own chatty brain, and her videos on YogaGlo have helped me incorporate guided and un-guided meditation into my daily practice. Others may come to the “discipline” though Mr. Chopra, or through the few minutes at the end of a rigorous asana class. The “wrong” way to the “right” place, perhaps?

      So whether we define meditation as a journey or a destination, if it brings us closer to samadhi, so much the better!

  • don't worry

    ” If having a practice of sitting is helping someone to feel more centered in themselves and have greater appreciation for life then I certainly am not trying to take that away. ”

    Really?? Thanks!

  • Dave

    This presumptuous, preposterous article had to be written more to grab attention and gain site hits that to actually guide people to greater emotional, mental and spiritual equilibrium. Meditation is not proscribed, It is fitting. Talking smack about its infinitude of variations is just plain biased ignorance.

  • Mirjana Petrović

    “If you set meditation to be your goal, and you try to get there, all you’ll get is a headache.” (this morning’s post on Shiva Shakti Yoga Studio fb page)

    • That’s what you get when you listen to some western yoga studio.

      Meditation is the only vehicle when it comes to yoga. Asanas are merely and adjunct to meditation. Unless you were born super ripe and are seated in shambavopaya or anupaya then meditation is the key to knowing thySelf.

      Who teaches you people this stuff or better yet, I think you all need a qualified teacher, not some person who took a few hour yoga instructor course.

      Well hear is to learning or unlearning!

  • Come to think of it this whole blog is the antithesis of Yoga. Celibriyogis? Business of yoga? I think someone missed the mark and created this blog for financial reasons

  • For those interested in reading more about J. Krishnamurti and the interpretation of yoga philosophy that I am driving at, there is also an interesting comment thread happening here:

  • novecho

    So Hum

  • I think that becoming absorbed in running, gardening, playing music, etc. is best described as a “flow” state, and not meditation. Flow states are incredibly valuable, but definitely not at all the same experience as sitting and watching what arises in your mind, noticing it, and letting it go – or, moving into deeper states of thoughtless awareness from there.

    I think it is a disservice to confuse the two as there is much to be gained from both experiences. However, because meditative awareness is more difficult to achieve and stick with, it’s particularly problematic to muddy the waters further.

    I get and appreciate the push back against using meditation as a form of “holier than thou” one-upmanship in the yoga community (I’ve seen a lot of this), as well as the sense of obligation and goal-seeking that this generates. Unfortunately, however, this post strikes me as a far too easy dismissal of an important and complex subject.

    • Hey Carol- Your point is well taken. In fairness, there is only so much you can do with 800 words in the infinitude of the yoga blogosphere. All the same, you are right. The implications of the distinction I am making are profoundly important and I have treated them in a cursory manner here. More needs to written for sure.

      • Lala

        I am immersed in TT right now. What I have observed is that there is a lot of information out there created by people who lack knowledge about the subjects they write upon. (i am not referring to you J. Brown.) Many of the students in my TT get there information from sources like Mind Body Green and Elephant Journal. No wonder they are confused! There isn’t a whole lot of quality control on those sites. More troubling is that after a 2 hour session of philosophy, some of the students feel qualified to write on meditation and post their work to these sites.

        I think this problem is larger than yoga. We live in an age where information is currency– even bad information. People decide to write on a subject and become self-proclaimed experts on subjects before they even have knowledge of their area of so-called “expertise, ”

        We should all be discerning. We should get our information from trusted sources.

        • Lala,

          What is TT?

          • Lala

            Teacher training. I have no desire to be a yoga teacher, but I am enjoying the coursework.

      • please spare us

        both you, and your imbecile buddy kaminoff…

        • Lala

          That’s kind of rude, isn’t it?

  • NTF

    So many judges so quick to disparage an idea they don’t agree with. It is easy to criticize someone for putting something forth, but not so easy to do it yourself. J. Brown is willing to take a stand for what he believes in rather than pretend he believes in nothing. That is enough for me.

    • oh for fucks sake...

      all J brown is doing is looking for air time, typically with passive aggressive insults of others, here with a hopelessly superficial dissection of “meditation”. How the fuck is that taking a stand for anything?

  • andy keene

    Jason Brown, in my opinion, is confirming Krishnamacharya’s 5th principal of yoga as taught by Mark Whitwell. “Asana, pranayama and meditation are a seamless process.” I think I understand Jason’s reason for writing the article and I agree with and appreciate his thoughts.

  • novecho

    simple things sure get complicated

  • This is a classic “Sudden School” vs. “Gradual School” debate that has been going on for a couple thousand years. All the research done on this via Esalen, Integral Institute, and the Institute of Trans-personal Psychology indicate that the two work in parallel, not one is a level above the other for most people. In other words, balance. Without the “Sudden School”, indeed, the “Gradual School” becomes a seeking school and simply uses practice to create more ego tension… however, without the “gradual school” the “sudden school” easily degrades into the “talking school” or a school whose members are able to have rather transcendent spiritual states but have no ability to transmit them or integrate and ground them into their lives (ie. the experience of being full of light until that one little thing happens and it comes crashing down).

    • Alex- Most interesting. I haven’t heard it referred to as “Sudden” vs “Gradual.” We surely are hitting upon a age old debate. As I understand it, the “Gradual” or “Qualified” school says that we start with a goal that is ultimately abandoned. And the “Sudden” or “Radical” school says that you simply start by abandoning the goal. All I might add is that the latter view does not exclude the idea of practice (even sitting) or reduce everything to talking (although that has been the case sometimes.) Ultimately, it is about different context for practice. As I alluded to above: “the context in which an endeavor for understanding meditation takes place determines the outcome of the endeavor.”

  • After careful consideration, I feel compelled to admit that I am in error. Old habits die hard and it is impossible to deny that, in this post, I have made a judgement and cast an aspersion. I have worked hard to temper this tendency in myself and failed to catch it before it was too late this time. In so doing, I have done myself and readers a disservice. I hope that my indiscretion did not completely overshadow the substantive debate surrounding meditation, which I think is vital. My sincerest appreciation to everyone for holding my feet to the fire. I promise to learn from my mistake.

    • peace to all

      No need to apologise J.Brown, your article was completely valid and discusses with earnest intent some of the misunderstandings surrounding meditation and yoga as a practice of seeking. I thoroughly enjoyed your piece. Food for thought indeed! The responses from some of the commentators above have, quite frankly, stunned me with their viciousness, as if your are trying to wrestle candy away from a tempestuous two year old child. Please do not back down, that you stand in your own ground and say your piece with authenticity is a gift. From there, healthy debate can ensue, however obviously not on this site.

      • Mirjana Petrović

        Thank you, both.. Speaking truth can not be an error. My teacher says that truth recognizes the truth – and he is right.


        • peace to all

          “Truth is no teacher no teaching no taught.” Avadhoot Gita. Thankyou too Mirjana.

      • sa sa

        there has been healthy debate on this site, much more than the rude and crazy stuff. …. peace, namaste’ ….

    • paul

      Thank you for this statement, it’s one thing to say “sorry,” another to accept responsibility for the harm, something which I and so many others struggle with, especially in the culture of nastiness we live in. I hope you continue to write about this, it is a largely undiscussed topic generally, and in the yogablog world too. One last note: I have serious doubts there is anything new in people using/manipulating terms to their own advantage, especially in the religious/spiritual worlds.

    • sa sa

      thank you j brown! i am so happy that you’ve apologized! that is very wise, brave, and sweet of you! and i also was thinking to share with everyone here, how very much i have grown in love, health, and peace, through the “meditations” 🙂 ~ that i practice and learn in kundalini yoga teachings and classes, as taught by yogi bhajan. there are specific mantras, mudras, and exercises, that really do have great power and healing, when practiced with devotion. but of course, there are many beautiful, powerful ways! and yes, we do need to be as careful and conscious as possible in our practices and communications. it’s all good , life is such a trip, and we are always learning. every breath is so precious. peace and love to all . 🙂

  • How about

    Thich Nhat Hanh….see what he has to say.

  • Dave

    Hey all, just empty your minds… and breathe. 😛

  • Christina

    Hi JBrown,

    Not sure what you are sorry about. From my perspective, your article serves well as a thought provoking piece on taking your practice to another level. Where it falls done (in my judgement), is that it’s judgmental about some people’s practice and experience of yoga. I hope that is the view you are sorry about expressing.

    If anyone perceives that they are obtaining some benefit from their experience of yoga, then that is yoga. Whether it reaches some depth or level according to another person’s standard or value, then that is just that other person’s judgement.

    The beauty of yoga is that there is always somewhere else you can take it, much like life. Your article’s value is in providing an insight into a different place that someone may take their practice, if they seek to do so.

    • YogaNerdMD

      THIS one thousand times! Well put!

  • If only you had title this piece:

    “Why I don’t need to meditate!”

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