I’ve been a meditator for a little less than ten years now. I’m a Buddhist. My experience and inclination lean this book towards Buddhist sitting meditation practice. However, I think it’s very important to say that I think “contemplative practice” includes lots of things, including lots of possibilities. By lots of things, I mean many practices from different traditions- chant, prayer, yoga, and so forth. “So forth” includes a lot, in this case, but not exactly everything. I pick my nose every day (so far, maybe someday I’ll get over this). That’s not really a habit that’s going to help me grow spiritually. In terms of practice, I tend to be biased in favor of more “traditional” approaches, but those aren’t the only good ones, or the only ones that work. By talking about lots of possibilities, I mean that beyond more traditional approaches, there may be other kinds of “practice” that could yield good results. I try to keep a somewhat open mind about that.
Two good examples of this less traditional approach might be the story of the sweeping man, and the Karate Kid. The Buddha had a student who wasn’t very smart, but who genuinely wanted to study and grow. The Buddha instructed him to sweep the floors around the temple, thinking as he was doing so, that he was sweeping away his confusion, his negative thoughts. This was his form of meditation. It’s said that the student did this, and his mind became signficantly stronger as a result. Of course, in the recent “Karate Kid” remake, Jackie Chan instructs his young, unruly student to put a jacket on a hanger over and over. He tells him precisely how to do this. His young student slowly becomes a little more disciplined. Little does the student know that he’s actually learning a martial arts form indirectly, by doing one thing over and over. As time passes, the student, the Jaden Smith character, became more disciplined, and learned how to do kung fu (without even knowing it).
My point is that, although I have a connection to the practice of sitting meditation (saying “I like it” doesn’t seem quite right, or honest), I think a lot of other approaches are available, or workable. It’s worth saying that, also, the teachers in those two examples were good teachers, because they had some insight into how to get their students to do a practice, and one that would create a variety of benefits for themselves and others. There was something a little tricky about this kind of teaching (which is, obviously, not the only kind), and something both subtle and simple. Maybe it seems like I’m making too much of these stories. After all, I’m not trying to explain the most refined philosophical points (which Buddhism, just like lots of other traditions has lots of). Then again, having experienced this kind of teaching in person, in my own life, I don’t think it should just be written off. That’s the twist, there: so often, the heaviest truths are so well known and encased in cliche that they fly under the radar. We’re surrounded by profound teachings, often in the guise of popular culture, cultural chitchat.