Becoming an Artist of Sucking


I really like to meditate.  It’s the most important thing I do every morning.  If I have a few minutes (or an hour) free at some point later in the day, my default is to be still and meditate rather than look at a screen or a book.

Part of my natural enthusiasm for meditation is that I’ve logged well over 10,000 hours, and now I’m actually pretty good at it.  However, this hasn’t always been the case.  For a long while, I sucked pretty substantially.

My first experience with meditation was a semester-long course in college named, Meditation and Relaxation.  Once, the teacher had us take deep, conscious breaths, counting one on the inhale, and two on the exhale.  We were supposed to see how high we could count before we “blanked out,” got distracted, lost in thought, or forgot to consciously breath or keep counting.  I usually couldn’t make it past five.  My record was around ten.

On my first meditation retreat, I was entirely consumed by obsessive thinking.  In a 1 hour meditation, I would have maybe 3 minutes of present-moment-awareness, and roughly 57 minutes of circular thinking.  Even several years later, when I began my 21 month retreat in Myanmar, the first couple months I was still doing more thinking than aware-ing.

This is fairly normal.  Most people suck at anything new for a long time.  Now consider something in life you’ve become proficient at.  What is it?

If you know a second language, how many halfway communications did you endure before being able to fully express yourself?  If you are a painter, how many mediocre paintings did you create before consistently producing beautiful art pieces?  If you have a stable long-term relationship, how many failed romances led to it?  If you are highly skilled at your job, how much education, resume-development and on-the-job experience led to your present state?

Whatever you’ve become good at, surely it took you countless hours of sucking before you got there.  And here’s one of the most essential skills for anyone who wants to get to a point where their default desire is to meditate rather than look at a screen:

You must become an artist of sucking.

My teacher used the word perseverance.  Others say patient endurance.  I think the phrase, artist of sucking, adds something to the picture.

To be an artist of sucking requires a strong heart-connection.  It’s the head that says, “why bother?”  or  “this is uncomfortable, boring and a waste of my time.”  or  “I’ve had a long day, I just want to sit on the couch and look at a screen.”  Inversely, it’s the heart’s longing that propels you into nourishing actions and situations.

On the deepest soul level, what do you want of your life?  What do you yearn for?  Relax into that question.

Rrrrrrrrrrrrrr      eeeeeee    lllllllllll    aaaaaaa    xxxxxxxxxxx

What do you yearn for?  Put your answer into a short phrase.  Speak it outloud.

For my heart, it’s to merge passion and presence.  When I connect with that yearning, it launches me into choices that might be uncomfortable or difficult, but serve my highest self.

In the case of meditation, the heart-connection gets us to approach our sucking with playfulness.  We don’t deny anything, but we also don’t get really serious about it.  We see our sucking not as a problem to be solved, but as a game to play around with, to get curious about, and to dive right into.

Like I said earlier, being proficient does make it a lot easier to meditate regularly; however, 99% of the people who logged enough hours to become proficient, also went through enormous periods of sucking.  Perseverance.  Patient endurance.  An artist of sucking.  Call it what you will, but know that it’s one of the most important things to develop if you truly wish to live that phrase you spoke outloud.

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