Dear Meditation Student, You’re Doing It Right

Dear Jay

[Just returned from a 3 day retreat as a novice]

Retreat was overall positive.  I think I went in with the wrong expectations/goals and suffered a bit for it and also didn’t devote myself to the practice as much as I would’ve liked…frankly, it was very hard to try to remain mindful all day and I slacked in between focused sessions.  But got some insights and most of all think I will start to see the impact slowly and in small ways more going forward than it being a singular affective experience (although hearing from others there it was certainly the latter for them).

If you ever want to talk about your experiences or practice let me know; I am realizing it’s probably helpful to discuss which there was almost none of there except at the very end since there’s always the concern whether you’re “doing it right”; focusing on the right things and really making the most of the practice. 

Dear Friend

That’s great – regardless of the outcome – the experience gives you a permanent reference point that will pay dividends.

You did it right!

I sort of fell backwards into all this. I started meditating (20ish min per day, 5ish days per week) mostly as a means to clear my head. What I realize, in hindsight, is that by meditating regularly I was gnawing away at the foundation of “self”, until it all seemed to collapse

Today I find meditation is still wonderful to settle the mind, but the sense of self is permanently altered. So in that way, all of my curiosity about “deeper” practice has mostly evaporated. Some say, extensive meditation is crucial. Others say, whatever there is to be realized, can be realized instantaneously. Both of these are true, in a way. For example, even if you meditate for five minutes, you hold all the shit swirling in your mind indifferently (even if you get distracted- you return to the frame of indifference- and say – “oh shit – look how I just got lost in a thought train”). Even if only briefly – you recognize that you are NOT identical with whatever is swirling in your mind. This begs the mega question: who are you, then? when you are holding that indifferent frame? And when are you ever NOT this?

The more you practice… the more the lines blur between “sitting and meditating” versus every waking moment of life. And, although we are all permanently vulnerable to thought-trains and emotions (they are fun, after all), you begin to catch yourself more readily and can exercise some contemplation before action. It’s really fucking trippy… Not trippy in the sense of radical changes in consciousness and mental fireworks, but instead, trippy in how you really start to deconstruct your own behavior, very subtly and gradually.

As a complement to all of this, I would suggest a book called “Self Illusion” by Bruce Hood. While it has absolutely nothing to do with meditation, it challenges the “self” through rigorous neuroscience. So in that sense, there is a clear intersection.

Probably the worst feeling is trying to validate if you are “doing it right” – and for that matter – what is “it”?? My only advice is, don’t worry. You are already at the bullseye – it’s just a matter of noticing.

Chat more any time. 

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