If you have never checked out the newsletter of the Bhavana Society Therevadan Buddhist Forest Monastery in High View, W.Va., the Spring 2016 quarterly newsletter of “The Forest Path” would be a good place to start. It has a long excerpt by Bhavana abbot Bhante Gunaratana on “Meditation: Why Bother?” It’s drawn from his international bestselling guide to meditation, “Mindfulness in Plain English,” which has been translated into more than 20 languages. You can download a .pdf of the Spring issue and past issues of The Forest Path at: bhavanasociety.org/newsletters/issue/spring_newsletter_2016
(NOTE: The Meditation Circle has a limited number of copies of “Mindfulness in Plain English” for your use for free, or you may order your own copy at this link.) Below is an excerpt from the Spring newsletter.
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Meditation is not easy. It takes time and it takes energy. It also takes grit, determination, and discipline. It requires a host of personal qualities that we normally regard as unpleasant and like to avoid whenever possible. We can sum up all of these qualities in the American word gumption. Meditation takes gumption. It is certainly a great deal easier just to sit back and watch television. So why bother? Why waste all that time and energy when you could be out enjoying yourself?
Why? Simple. Because you are human. Just because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent unsatisfactoriness in life that simply will not go away. You can suppress it from your awareness for a time; you can distract yourself for hours on end, but it always comes back, and usually when you least
expect it. All of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, you sit up, take stock, and realize your actual situation in life. There you are, and you suddenly realize that you are spending your whole life just barely getting by. You keep up a good front. You manage to make ends meet somehow and look okay from the outside. But those periods of desperation, those times when you feel everything caving in on you— you keep those to yourself. You are a mess, and you know it.
But you hide it beautifully. Meanwhile, way down under all of that, you just know that there has to be some other way to live, a better way to look at the world, a way to touch life more fully. You click into it by chance now and then: you get a good job. You fall in love. You win the game. For a while, things are different. Life takes on a richness and clarity that makes all the bad times and humdrum fade away. The whole texture of your experience changes and you say to
yourself, “Okay, now I’ve made it; now I will be happy.”
But then that fades too, like smoke in the wind. You are left with just a memory—that, and the vague awareness that something is wrong. You feel that there really is a whole other realm of depth and sensitivity available in life; somehow, you are just not seeing it. You wind up feeling cut off. You feel insulated from the sweetness of experience by some sort of sensory cotton. You are not really touching life. You are not “making it” again. Then even that vague awareness fades away, and you are back to the same old reality. The world looks like the usual foul place. It is an emotional roller coaster, and you spend a lot of your time down at the bottom of the ramp, yearning for the heights.
So what is wrong with you? Are you a freak? No. You are just human. And you suffer from the same malady that infects