A wise new essay at Access to Insight from Thanissaro Bhikku on “The Joy of Effort.”
“When explaining meditation, the Buddha often drew analogies with the skills of artists, carpenters, musicians, archers, and cooks. Finding the right level of effort, he said, is like a musician’s tuning of a lute. Reading the mind’s needs in the moment — to be gladdened, steadied, or inspired — is like a palace cook’s ability to read and please the tastes of a prince.
Collectively, these analogies make an important point: Meditation is a skill, and mastering it should be enjoyable in the same way that mastering any other rewarding skill can be. The Buddha said as much to his son, Rahula: “When you see that you’ve acted, spoken, or thought in a skillful way — conducive to happiness while causing no harm to yourself or others — take joy in that fact, and keep on training.”
The author continues:
“This joyful attitude is a useful antidote to the more pessimistic attitudes that people often bring to meditation, which tend to fall into two extremes. On the one hand, there’s the belief that meditation is a series of dull and dreary exercises allowing no room for imagination and inquiry: Simply grit your teeth, and, at the end of the long haul, your mind will be processed into an awakened state. On the other hand there’s the belief that effort is counterproductive to happiness, so meditation should involve no exertion at all: Simply accept things as they are — it’s foolish to demand that they get any better — and relax into the moment.”
Read the full essay here.