Collectively, these analogies make an important point: Meditation is a skill, and mastering it should be enjoyable in the same way that mastering any other rewarding skill can be. The Buddha said as much to his son, Rahula: 'When you see that you’ve acted, spoken, or thought in a skillful way—conducive to happiness while causing no harm to yourself or others—take joy in that fact, and keep on training.'
Of course, saying that meditation should be enjoyable doesn’t mean that it will always be easy or pleasant. Every meditator knows it requires serious discipline to sit with long unpleasant stretches and untangle all the mind’s difficult issues. But if you can approach difficulties with the enthusiasm that an artist approaches challenges in her work, the discipline becomes enjoyable: Problems are solved through your own ingenuity, and the mind is energized for even greater challenges.
That’s an inspiring aim, but it requires work. And the key to maintaining your inspiration in the day‐to‐day work of meditation practice is to approach it as play: a happy opportunity to master practical skills, to raise questions, experiment, and explore. This is precisely how the Buddha himself taught meditation. Instead of formulating a cut‐and‐dried method, he first trained his students in the personal qualities—such as honesty and patience—needed to make trustworthy observations. Only then did he teach meditation techniques, and even then he didn’t spell everything out. He raised questions and suggested areas for exploration, in hopes that his questions would capture his students’ imagination, inspiring them to develop discernment and gain insights on their own..."
From "The Joy of Effort" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
You can read the entire essay, "The Joy of Effort" here:
Or, you can listen to it as a dharma talk here: