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The Pretentious Buddha

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

I can remember my first transcendental experience with meditation like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my meditation chair early in the morning ready for another 30 minute session. The day before my mind was incessant and I found it difficult to focus my attention. With apprehension due to the thought of another difficult session, I made the commitment to try again. I lit my candles, turned on my fountain, and settled in.

Within minutes I could feel something and that something felt almost as though it were nothing. My body felt light as a feather and I had no sensation in my extremities. I could hear everything in my room crystal clear —the sound of the fountain, the buzz of the heater, and the occasional car passing by. Time felt slower than normal and the feeling of weight in my body had completely disappeared.

Moments later I experienced something that has since changed my life—space. For the first time I had separated from the thinking in my head and I could see the mind as if I was watching it on a movie screen. I felt no attachment to my thoughts and could see them with objectivity. They weren’t my thoughts, they were just the thoughts that were happening.

My antiquated mind had just been blown and I remember journaling about the experience like a giddy a child!!

Had I just figured out meditation? Very unlikely.

Did I just have a spiritual experience?

What just happened to me???

To be honest, I didn’t really care what to call it or how to label it. All I knew was that I felt great and I wanted to share my experience with someone. If it can help me, then surely it can help others, right?!

The truth is, most people are on their own journeys and even if someone is on the same journey as you, that doesn’t mean they’ve made it as far down the learning curve. I won’t go so far as to say meditation isn’t right for everyone, but I will say that meditation is right only when when the time is right. Most people live their lives oblivious to the treasure hidden within and we as meditators are often eager to help others see the magic of mindfulness—maybe a little too eager.

When we first start meditating it’s like we somehow stumbled onto a hidden, yet remarkably simple secret. We might even feel like those who don’t know this secret are somehow “less evolved” than us. But that’s the problem with secrets, they are divisive by nature in that one party knows and the other party knows not.

Don’t let the ego hijack your meditation practice. The ego loves secrets and feeds off knowing things that others don’t. Furthermore, the ego can take your meditation practice and add it to the inventory of so called “personal attributes” that propagate the self and strengthen the egoic mind. After we start a meditation practice it’s all too easy to fall into a trap I like to call The Pretentious Buddha.

We’ve all seen this person in our lives; the one who looks down on those who don’t meditate or judges others for having strong emotions or being unspiritual. These are the kind of people that give mindfulness a bad rap. They exaggerate their practice to others to seem more enlightened, all in an attempt to keep the ego—the sense of “I’m better than you”—alive.

Most of the time, these people don’t even know that their ego is really the one driving the boat on their mindfulness journey. They’re intentions might be pure in that they really want to help people and see a better world, but their execution is seriously flawed.

You can’t talk someone into meditating; you can only show them how meditation is working through you! That’s the key!

So, for example, if you want your significant other to start a meditation practice, don’t spend hours presenting him/her with the latest and greatest scientific research validating meditation (of which, there is many). Instead, embody your practice. Your significant other will be sure to notice. Eventually, the change in you will be so substantial that your s/o will want to try it for themselves.

If they do start a practice, great! However, you still want to keep you distance because at the end of the day, meditation is a very personal proposition—it’s not the same for anyone. Let them grow into their practice instead of telling them things you have done or learned along the way in your own journey. When we try to project our practice onto others, we lose them because the idea of “getting to the same place” is daunting and overwhelming.

This doesn’t mean that you should never discuss your practice, but I would encourage you to do so only if asked. Even then, I wouldn’t describe your practice in a grandiose manner because it will only lead to trepidation and maybe even resentment from the other person.

People are often amazed when I tell them that my wife doesn’t have a regular meditation practice of her own. To them, I usually respond with “Why should she?” Meditation was a personal choice for me and for me to force it on my wife would be unfair. I avoid preaching to her because what’s true for me in this moment does not have to be true for her.

All I can do is be the person that my meditation practice has allowed me to be. When I show kindness or patience, my wife knows it came from my meditation practice. I don’t need to tell her. I want my wife to find meditation at her own pace, on her own terms, and when the time is right.

You too can lead by example. Instead of telling people how great meditation can be, show them. When you get excited and eager to tell anyone and everyone about the benefits of meditation, practice mindfulness and take a deep conscious breath. Be patient with your loved ones and know that when the time is right, meditation will be there for them.

Have you ever been guilty of being a pretentious Buddha? Do you have any others methods to help guide people along the path of mindfulness at their own pace? If so, please leave a comment and let us know! And as always thank you for reading our post!

Until next time, many many blessings.

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