There is a situation we all encounter when we begin to meditate, which seems to present a problem. Most meditators do not solve this problem, they merely accommodate it in their meditation. There is some benefit in this fudging, but the main drawback is that they don’t notice they have not solved it, and they simply accept the situation. They are missing the Main Chance!
Here’s what happens. We sit to meditate, usually calming the mind by attending to an object such as the sensations of breathing, thoughts come, we let go of them, more thoughts come, and so on. We did not have an intention to create thoughts, we had the intention that thinking would quieten – and yet thoughts come.
The mind does quieten gradually as we accept that thoughts come anyway, and we learn not to follow them – as best we can. This is useful and allows enough calmness for us to become familiar with our awareness, with the possibility of vipashyana, insight. And yet, did we miss the curiosity that we think it’s our mind we’re working with, we did not call for thoughts to appear, and still, against our wishes, there they are? We can decide not to speak, we cannot decide not to think. Whose mind is this?
A powerful way to investigate *
Our understanding of the situation is that:–
“I think these thoughts”,
“These are my thoughts”,
“There is a me experiencing these thoughts”,
“I am producing these thoughts”.
Without getting philosophical about it, is this what you seem to believe? When you speak of your thinking, are these the assumptions behind the way you talk? Is this how you think of it?
For each statement, ask yourself the following questions and reflections:–
Is it true?
Is this my experience, or simply how I think the situation is?
Now consider, what happens when I believe these statements? Specifically begin with what happens when you meditate, does it make thoughts frustrating? Does it make meditation a struggle?
In everyday life, has it created trouble when you have taken thoughts you’ve had as being yours, maybe defended them in an obstinate way rather than being open to all possibilities?
Have you ever had two thoughts which conflict? How does that feel? If they are “yours”, which one is you?
Have you ever considered the oddness of being the producer of thoughts, and the receiver of them, in the same instant? “I thought this / a thought came to me” – which is the real me? Am I two me’s?
Can there be a me separate from the thoughts to do the creation or the listening? Both of these? Either?
What else can you find which results from holding these ideas?
Next, a difficult one: who or what would you be if you did not believe this idea? Give that some time, can you imagine it?
What alternatives might be true, if these assumptions are abandoned?
*Full credit here to The Work of Byron Katie
This is not just a problem to crack, it’s a prison to break out of. How long does it take us as meditators to realise that our initial contradiction in meditating is actually the way out of infinitely more than a meditation issue? Let’s be fearless in our pursuit of truth.