Meditation is important for 2 main reasons: (1) to get you familiar with your inner life and thought patterns. (2) to figure out the nature of who you truly are.
I’m going to write about 2 briefly and give you something to try…
Partially owing to the scientific revolution and the cultural depravity today, everybody in the modern west is trained to be a separate individual their whole life.
Life is a process of self aggrandizement and separation. You are taught to look at the world as tools to be exploited for your gain and live your day to day existence trying to improve “yourself and be a better person”
But what if the you that you think you really are is not real? This is what most eastern traditions and some of the more mystical western ones realized.
The you that you think you are is actually an illusion. And this ignorance is the source of all suffering.
Taking yourself to be something you are not leads to all the desires, fears and suffering in the world.
What do I mean?
Take what you think to be your self, for instance. A true self needs to be permanent. It cannot disappear, or you’d be dead
There has to be something constant. It’s just not what you think it is. The self you currently live your life as is constantly changing…
Lose your job? Lose your partner? Don’t live up to your expectations? Get insulted by someone? All of these change your sense of self…and this is why they hurt so much because you’re holding onto something that was just damaged.
But holding onto the self is like holding onto a radioactive, decaying isotope. It is the source of all your suffering and makes you a slave to desires and fears.
It is not real. You cannot actually locate a single sense of self. It’s just a composite of what the buddhists call the five aggregates: thoughts, memories, emotions and perceptions. And because it’s not a real physical thing, it’s always insecure and trying to prove itself as being real.
This is what meditation can uncover. This may sound pessimistic but it’s really the exact opposite. In fact, it’s the first step to freedom.
Realizing that you are not the person you think you are frees you up from having to try to defend and satisfy a fictitious delusion at all times. It frees you up to live and to simply be present. And it gives you the capability of truly loving without the mess of your ego blocking the light within you.
This takes a lifetime of work…but hopefully that can start today for you (if it hasn’t yet).
But first some starting premises…
First premise: something that appears and disappears cannot really be you because if it were you’d be dying in every singe moment….
For instance, if you take yourself to be your thoughts, what are you when all those go away? Are you still you? What about if you take yourself to be your body. What if you lost a leg? Would you still be you? There’s clearly something else to this…
Second premise: something is there that witnesses and perceives everything.
Third premise: that something behind all that you perceive is the real you…and it takes relentless meditative work to realize this.
Here are some things to try:
- Close your eyes. Ask yourself, who am I? Who is sitting here? Look for the self you think you are. Can you find it? Keep looking….
- Now ask yourself: without thoughts, memories or perceptions, who are you?
- Try a gratitude practice at the end of meditation. Be grateful for what you already have. This will help you realize that no matter what your circumstances are right now you can be happy. It’s a pointer to the truth: the external world has nothing to do with happiness.
- For a week, take a vacation from your mind. Don’t give into all its desires. Detach from it. View it as a dream playing on the screen of consciousness. DOn’t trust it so much. Be more spontaneous.