Insight is available from the moment you first sit to meditate.
You sit, intending to follow the sensations of your breath (or other object), yet before long you ‘come to’, realising you have been lost in thinking instead. What then? Do you ask yourself what is going on here? Or do you assume you are not doing very well yet and need to improve?
In other words, do you ignore this paradox? You chose to follow your breath and yet almost immediately you do something else, you start thinking. Who is in charge? What is this “you” that disobeys its own instructions? Are there two “you”s in conflict? Do you at least notice this strange situation?
Do you also wonder how it is that you seem to know what you are doing when observing the breath, but when thinking begins you are apparently “lost” in thinking? What is the ‘lost’ and ‘found’ here?
tranquillity and insight meditation
Buddhist meditation is often described in terms of ‘shamatha’ or tranquillity, and ‘vipashyana’ or insight, aspects of meditation, so we may not expect to be faced with such prompts to insight on first commencing shamatha practice.
In fact we will discover in time at least one reason why attaining some shamatha tranquillity can provide an opportunity for a different way of knowing, a way in which insight becomes more accessible. So even if we don’t crack the paradox, it is worth pursuing shamatha – while noticing these oddities and wondering about them.
Because even from the first moment of meditation we have a chance to question our assumptions – or to follow them blindly into the confusion they generate.