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Gold Star Meditation: How do we Properly Reward Practice?


Many friends and I have all checked out this great smartphone app called Insight Timer, which lets you keep really good track of meditation sessions and connect with other meditators around the world. IDP has several online groups on this application -- including the one called Daily Sit IDP, which already has a lot of members -- which have come together very quickly. If you have the app, please join our group. 

One of the more interesting features of the application is that it includes “milestones.” Milestones are ways that we can chart our progress for consecutive days of practice or total days that we practice. Milestones are good motivators, and it seems very useful to always have an intention or aspiration with practice. In fact, the milestones give you gold and green stars for achieving goals, in terms of how consistently we are able to hit the cushion. That’s right, folks, gold stars for your meditation practice. Remind you of elementary school?

This obviously brings up a lot of questions, because we definitely need good motivation to do something that is good for us, such as meditation. But at the same time, many traditions such as Soto Zen say that we should have “no gaining idea,” no sense of getting we’re achieving something solid and permanent out of our practice. So my question for the day is this: is handing out gold stars beneficial for our dharma practice or a hindrance? I tend to think it’s a good thing. 

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According to me meditation is

According to me meditation is very important for a human, it comes into practice only if we do it regularly. 


gold stars

In school i was a terrible student- gold stars were what the "better"students achieved. My mind worked just a little differently than my sparkling siblings and co-students. Getting by was the best i could do. Competition was always there on the board, the paper, and in the teachers words. GOLD STAR!!! Whenever I received a gold star -i would rejoice- but it didn't really spur me onto better work(practice) But what it did do, was make me aware of its sparkle and the attachments to that sparkle.
so gold stars are indeed very good teachers.
Stars sparkle and are far, far away in the darkness.
Zazen practice is here,despite judgements, despite encouragement,
It's in the darkness and light
- reminds me of a verse from the Sandokai by zen master Sekito Kisen
"Light and darkness are a pair, like the foot before and the foot behind in walking. Each thing has its own intrinsic value and is related to everything else in function and position"
Perhaps this might mean -whatever works to stimulate the fire of practice is good; yet to recall impermanence of everything, even golden crutches, because eventually our broken legs heal and we must walk without them until our bodies are uneeded.

speaking for myself

rewards are a hindrance to my practice. I tend to focus on the reward rather than the practice. and to use it to achieve milestones or to sit "with" people feels inauthentic to me.

I sit because I am, to see who I am (in this moment), and to connect with who we all are.

Lama Tsultrim Allione says we should look at our practice like a lover -- scheduled time for it, look forward to it, prepare for it, be curious and open to see what is happening with it. no gold stars there. :-)


I disagree with handing out gold stars for accomplishing a specific meditation milestone. Handing out gold stars is counter productive to what our Buddhist practice is suppose to be about. I think that if you are always looking to the outside for a gold star and browny points then spiritual bypassing could begin to arise. Through meditation you begin to not need gold stars to remind you of what you are doing or how long you should be sitting. We should naturally feel within ourselves that you are accomplishing what we personally need to accomplish, but don't let the gold stars be the guide. Gold stars are way too fixating and solid for our practice.

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