If there is one thing I could suggest to help people working with a new or existing meditation practice its 'stop trying so hard'.
Ultimately meditation develops the understanding or realisation of what we really are rather than what we imagine ourselves to be. Yet to be what we really are takes no effort at all
Imagine you were pretending to be someone else, you'd have to put a lot of effort into maintaining their accent, characteristics, physicality and so on. To keep that up would be quite exhausting.
Yet that is what we do with out entire existence.
You could say that who we think we are seems to begin with the arising of our mind. Yet way before mind arises there is already something there.
Before thoughts, perceptions, conditioned ideas, before memories (thoughts about thoughts) before anxiety, worry, joy. There is something that we clearly know to exist.
That's not really a correct statement though, because the 'thing' that exists before all of the above, isn't a thing in the sense of all other things that we know. All other things that we are aware of, that we experience, are what we call objective experiences.
They are objective because the qualities that they seem to possess are projected onto them by the observer, by the subject.
Be it a thought, a pair of trainers or the conditioned idea of a holiday, They are only 'loaned' a reality by the knower of them. One person may like the idea of white trainers, another person has no liking for them, a butterfly sees something to land on with no nutritional value, a dog perceives something to chew up. The 'trainers' never existed in an ultimate sense, only in a relative sense to the one that perceived them as trainers. They never knew themselves as trainers. Likewise a tree never knows itself as a tree, nor a bird as a bird. These are all realities projected upon them by us.
Maintaining this relative view of reality requires effort from the individual, our entire day is spent grappling with the naming and labelling of all things, even of 'ourself', as good, bad or irrelevant. This labelling and naming defines our every moment and activity.
After many years of struggling with 'meditation' or 'sitting quietly' or whatever label you want to pin on it, at some point I simply stopped trying.
That didn't mean that I stopped sitting or meditating, but that something significant shifted in my perception that some effort was 'required'.
From a practice of trying to find quiet, from trying to monitor my mind and whatever arose, from seeing meditation as another activity that I did, it shifted quite suddenly.
I considered that maybe I had for all of those years been approaching it from the wrong angle entirely. There was the realisation that it was actually the only thing that I couldn't 'do'.
For sure, developing better focus and concentration was a skill that could be progressed, but the deeper meditation, what I really wanted to explore, was something that I could only let go into. My brief glimpses of it had required zero effort, none whatsoever.
That letting go however, the zero effort idea, was ironically, incredibly challenging.
We are always so busy, feeling that we have to 'do something to maintain our existence' that to simply let go and be was easier said than done - except of course the whole point was that it couldn't be 'done'.
Rather than trying to meditate or find stillness, an activity that was impossible (how can you try to find stillness through effort?!) it was actually a remembering to stop chasing the impulse to do.
That impulse to be doing something is present constantly, every second. It doesn't mean that we should just stop and do nothing all day, life goes on, but doing just for the sake of doing is exhausting. Thinking for the sake of thinking, planning futures and chewing over the past for the sake of it is pointless and takes us further and further from the stillness and quiet we yearn for.
So meditation becomes a process of letting go of all that, and when you think you have let go, you let go even more and apply even less effort. There is absolutely no effort required to be still, to be centred. Stillness and centred is our default setting, everything else comes afterwards, is added over the top of that.
We need to fall back further and further, stop looking for something else......
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