May 18, 2017

Five Excuses I Made for Choosing Coffee over Meditation:

Without time, there could be no coffee or meditation; but with time for only one, which would we prioritize?

With a smile on our faces, the answer would likely be coffee; but accompanied by a more thoughtful demeanor, surely we would choose meditation.

But honestly, in the real world, it’s coffee. No excuses.

The standard complaint amongst those struggling to establish a consistent daily meditation practice is that they lack the time—poor, poor, time. As if he were so stingy, being blamed for almost everything we know we should do but don’t. As if we would meditate for hours on end, anyway! Let’s just all agree now to lighten up on time.

Meditation, in my experience, is almost an addiction, not unlike coffee. The more coffee you drink, the more likely you are to continue drinking it. Given the chance, meditation is habit-forming as well. And who doesn’t need a good habit thrown into the mix with all our other…not so good habits?

There are few sporadic coffee drinkers, but many sporadic meditators who haven’t truly tasted the full flavor of meditation. Meditation is an acquired taste, like a fine espresso, and acquiring it means cultivating a daily, disciplined practice, just like we so easily do with coffee!

To understand how to do this, let’s debunk the five common reasons why we choose coffee over meditation:

1. Blame it on the form of meditation.

Not all forms of meditation are the same. If we have only tried one or two styles of meditation, we just may not have found one suitable for our disposition. Of the many schools—Chan, Dzogchen, Tantra, Vipassana, Vajrayana, mindfulness of breathing, and so forth —there are ample opportunities to find a good fit. If we think we don’t like coffee but have only tried espresso, that may be the simple reason for our distaste of coffee.

2. Not enough time.

This is the most common reason we give ourselves, and the least viable. It takes 15 minutes to half an hour a day to discover the promise we have within ourselves, and yet we don’t make time for it! If this is our excuse, we must look deeper, and be honest with ourselves about what we’re prioritizing.

3. Avoiding difficult emotions.

I often feel fine before I meditate, but once I do sit, all sorts of negative thoughts and emotions arise. For those who are not familiar with the mechanics of meditation, it’s easy to be discouraged by these newly arisen negative feelings. We think the meditation put them there, when, in fact, it only lifted the corner of the carpet to show us the dirt underneath.

Actually, awareness of “bad” thoughts, “negative” emotions, and so forth that are experienced when meditating are likely indications that the meditation is being correctly engaged. Those who understand this are not discouraged by these thoughts and simply observe them as part of the vast canvas of meditation. Whatever the burden may be, don’t carry it or try to toss it out. Set it down and rest in meditative equipoise. Everything will be okay.

4. Not experiencing results.

“I tried meditation, but it doesn’t work for me.” This excuse is fine if you do not believe that meditation works, but if you do, then the question that should be posed is: “Am I different from everyone else?” The countless rishis, buddhas, saints, and sages have declared meditation a viable tool for disentangling ourselves from disturbing emotions and finding peace. If we believe, somehow, it doesn’t work for us, we must dig a little deeper before offering ourselves such an unsatisfying excuse.

5. No place to meditate.

Not having a quiet place to meditate free of distraction is a common reason we give ourselves for not meditating, and does have some justification. Our immediate environment may be unsuitable, but we can always explore other options. Although most convenient, our homes may not be the best place. Parks should be explored, or anything within a short walk of our homes. In addition, we may find a local sangha (dharma community) where we can join fellow meditators for daily meditation and support.

If there were no coffee houses in our neighborhood, would that keep us from drinking coffee? Hell no! I’d move to another country, plant coffee trees, and roast it myself if I had to!

This is the way all of us could feel toward meditation if we gave ourselves a chance to realize the potential it has to disentangle ourselves from the drama of our lives, both internal and external, and realize true peace.

Making an effort to shift our schedules and attitudes to be more amenable will always pay off.

Soon enough we’ll even find ourselves drinking espresso (and liking it).

Author: Richard Josephson
Image:  Virtual Wolf / Flickr
Editor: Danielle Beutell

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