Many of the most successful CEOs in the world use meditation to give them an edge. That’s what the card that appears at the beginning of a Huffington Post video/article on meditation titled Top CEOs Reveal The Most Important Habit For Success tells me. “Russell Simmons calls meditation ‘the core of my existence’,” it whispers to me under that. And Russell Simmons has a net worth of $325 million!
Then why, after 30 years of this meditation shit, am I still not a success?
I know, I know. There are different ways of defining “success.” But let’s not kid ourselves. The kind of success this article is promoting isn’t some abstract sort of “success of not wanting success” Zen bullshit. They’re talking about real success, baby! The kind that Donald J. Trump has! The kind you get when you’re using meditation to give you an edge over the competition. Boom! Smoked you! Cuz I meditate, bee-otch!
Looked at it that way you could never consider me to be a success. I’m a 52 year old man who has never owned a house, doesn’t own a car and never had one that wasn’t a beater, doesn’t have a steady income, and has no real prospects for ever obtaining any of this stuff.
Success depends on measurement and comparison. On the one hand, I am successful because I have six books out, all of which are still in print including the first one I published over ten years ago. I don’t have to punch a clock every day. I’m my own boss. I earn enough to pay my rent and my bills and have some left over to buy old records over at the Goodwill.
On the other hand, I am unsuccessful because none of my books has ever won a literary prize. They don’t sell as well as those by many other writers in my field. I’ve never been reviewed in the New York Times and no doubt never will. I’ll never be on Oprah’s Super Spiritual Sunday. NPR routinely ignores every book I put out. Bill Maher doesn’t want me on his show even though every other person who writes a book about religion gets on. I was once told by someone who deals with the big names on the spiritual scene that I am “not even on the radar” when it comes to the real stars of the meditation world. My retreats don’t pack ‘em in like those run by the big boys in the scene.
It depends on what you compare yourself to. That’s what success is all about — comparison.
The samurai in medieval Japan understood that meditation could give them a competitive edge. They used zazen practice as a way to “strengthen their skills” and “strengthen their ability to focus” to paraphrase the HufPo video.
“Different parts of the brain, especially located in the prefrontal cortex and parts of the brain such as the amygdala which respond to fear seem to be strengthened through meditation so you can assess the situation a little more calmly with a little more objectivity,” says the presenter over some Discovery Channel footage of animations of the inside of the brain. “I meditate and think about the goals I want to achieve that day,” says Paolo Moya, CEO of Marshall Moya Design. Then up comes a card that says, “meditation is an effective tool for success.”
It sure is! If you want to slice off the head of your archenemy from the Miyamoto Clan or just destroy the careers of your economic rivals, meditation can definitely help.
And that is a problem.
Selling meditation as a key to success destroys meditation. If your meditation is directed at achieving goals, you’re only strengthening that part of you which is forever unsatisfied, forever seeking outside approval, forever chasing after money and power. You’ve discovered an even more effective way to ensure that you’ll never be happy, never be balanced, never have any kind of peace.
There’s a damned good reason the early Buddhists taught ethical precepts along with meditation. They understood right from the start that meditation without ethics can be a very bad thing indeed. For the meditator as much as for anyone else. But now we have to make our meditation courses completely secular. So a whole generation is learning to meditate without any training in ethics to go along with it.
A friend of mine posted one of those little affirmational memes the other day. It said, “Dream It, Believe It, Achieve It.” I posted a comment that said, “I want to achieve the ability to be unconcerned about achievement.”
Even though I want that, it’s probably not in the nature of things to ever be completely unconcerned about achievement. It may be hardwired into us as animals to compete with each other for resources. And even if it isn’t hardwired, we live in a society that measures success in very specific ways and rewards those who appear to achieve it while punishing those of us who do not.
But although we may never be completely free from the desire to achieve, we might be able to learn to see that desire for exactly what it really is. Just another thought inside our heads. No better or worse than any other random firing of neurons. Nothing to get excited about. Nothing that requires any response.
Maybe that’s another way to define “success.”
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Check out my podcast with Pirooz Kalayeh, ONCE AGAIN ZEN!
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July 1, 2016 Cleveland, Ohio Zero Defex at Now That’s Class!
July 4, 2016 Cleveland, Ohio Zero Defex TBA
July 8, 2016 Seattle, Washington EastWest Bookshop 7:30pm Talk & Book Signing
July 9, 2016 Seattle, Washington EastWest Bookshop 10am-3pm Workshop
September 10-11, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland 2-Day Retreat
September 14, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland Zazen and Discussion
September 16-17, 2016 Dublin, Ireland 3-Day Retreat
September 22-25, 2016 Hebden Bridge, England, 4-Day Retreat
September 27, 2016 – Wimbledon, London, England – Talk and Q&A
September 29-October 2, 2016 Helsinki, Finland, 4-Day Retreat
October 3, 2016 Turku, Finland, Talk at the University
October 4-5, Stockholm, Sweden, Talk and 1-Day-Retreat
October 7, 2016 Berlin, Germany Zenlab
October 14, 2016 Munich, Germany, Lecture
October 15-16, 2016 Munich, Germany, 2-Day Retreat
October 23-28, 2016 Benediktushof Meditation Centrum (near Würzburg, Germany) 5-Day Retreat
MORE EUROPEAN DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED SOON!
Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 10:00 am (NEW TIME!) there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!
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