Our Individual Practice
In listening to the meditation experiences of a practitioner recently, I was reminded of an important truth for me – and that is, our individual experiences are all unique! We each have an inimitable trajectory that we’re on. And so, this makes comparing my experience with that of someone else only profitable to a certain degree.
For Christians, the Sacred Word attests to this lived experience as follows:
“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, . . .” (Galatians 6:4, NIV). And also, “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12, NIV).
Coincidentally, not long ago, I read this liberating passage: . . .
“A frequent problem is that we think, “Although the teachings are perfect, I am not practicing them properly.” We may have thoughts like these because we feel that we are not doing them the way someone else does. Because we are not practicing the way “he” does or “she” does or “they” do, we think, “I am not doing it right.”
Then, gradually, we stop practicing. That is a big problem for us. However, we should be clear that the way each and every person practices any instruction is individual. The way we hear, the way we understand, and the way we express that understanding in action are all individual.
When you put what you hear and study into practice, it will be—and has to be—your own. The way that you practice is not better than another person’s way, nor is it worse. It is exactly the way that it should be for you, and the way that someone else does it is exactly the way that it should be for them.
It is important for us not to lose heart in our way of practicing and to have confidence that we are putting these instructions into effective use in our lives. … We can take great delight in the individuality of our own practice, doing it as often and as effectively as possible.” (Taken from ,and lightly adapted the format, from Ponlop, Dzogchen. Mind Beyond Death. Boulder, Colorado: Snow Lion, 2007.)
As mentioned, I found this passage freeing or liberating. Over the years, I have taken a number of meditation classes and received quality instructions – they were, and are, extremely good. Nevertheless, when it comes to practicing them, this is where – in the end – it is more an individual matter. I can never be exactly like any one of my fine instructors.
While meditation teachings and guidelines are essential and definitely needed, I can never meditate in exactly the same way another person does. There will be, of necessity, a degree of individuality. Certainly, I will always respect whatever someone else’s practice is, and for where they’re at. But, I can never become someone else!