Sunday Blog: Permission To Cheat

Meditation is the new yoga—everyone seems to be doing it, from buttoned up executives at the Rubin Museum, to my contractor, with his beer belly and his smokes, who claims it changed his life.

The point is that these aren’t shiny-headed monks in Tibet—they’re regular folks who are getting a lot out of it.

What’s really bugging me is that I used to have a serious meditation practice at the San Francisco Zen Center that I have totally lost.

Back then, in the meditation hall, if you dozed off, a monk would come around and hit you with a stick. A friend, who’d recently spend a year there, told me those were considered the “macho days of the SFZC.” He’d been impressed I’d stuck it out.

But now nada. I couldn’t sit straight up on that zafu. I couldn’t find that perfect concentration.

I knew that there were plenty of tapes out there that walked you through a meditation sequence—talking tapes, music tapes—and you can do it with your eyes closed. This was cheating though—not what I’d learned at the Zen Center.

A woman who lives up the road told me she meditated on the sofa wearing a black eyemask. Wow, wasn’t that another form of cheating? Comfy and everything?

I tried Cheri Clampett’s Sun & Moon Meditation tape and realized that by following this woman’s voice I could begin to do it—but was this the real thing?

I asked my own meditation teacher, Brette Popper, who has a serious practice early in the morning, about whether this listening to a guided meditation was ok. She told me that it was like when you start doing anything—cooking, drawing—and you start off the way you can, and then maybe you get curious and start exploring in other directions. “Go ahead—use tapes,” she said.

I am. I have been doing it for four days and I think I may actually be removing a samskara from the Zen Center.