Training in Failure



For me sitting is almost like training in failure. Almost? Always. I fail every time I sit down. I fail to keep my attention on the breath. I fail to maintain equanimity, I fail to achieve even the first jhana, I fail to become enlightened. Every time.

And even now as I write this, I can feel the attempt to turn this failure into success – to somehow say: “This is what it is, living. Failing, over and over again.” Although I don’t fully believe that this is what “living” is but, rather, “This is what it’s like to be me.”

And this is what it’s like.

There is a breath of despair to it, and that breath is my breath. I open my heart to receive it.

4 thoughts on “Training in Failure

  1. An interesting take on “failure”.

    I think what’s important when sitting is to be concerned with neither success nor failure. That has everything to do with “I”, “Me” ,”Myself”. Our sense of self is an illusion – a construct.

    Our focus when seated need only be on mindfulness – what is occurring moment to moment with our mind and body. Letting feelings, sensations, and thoughts come and go with no attachment.

    In time and with diligent practice the mind settles, becomes more concentrated, and Jhana states are attainable.

    1. Thanks for the insight, Dan!

      I completely agree with you that “success” and “failure” are equally illusory, though I have found that trying to embrace my innumerable “failures” has been instructive. It’s pretty easy to remain “equanimous” when everything seems to be going well!

      1. Chris, it’s true that when all is going well it’s easier to be equanimous. I think that what you want to avoid is embracing or rejecting either success or failure.

        The skillful path is “acceptance” for both failure and success. These are just passing, changeable moments. No need to do anything other than note them coming and going.

        Getting caught up in the drama of our failures and successes simply reinforces the sense of self.

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