Following is a particularly curly question about something which always seems to become an issue in meditation, however briefly.
Sometimes while I’m meditating it feels like I’m using my mind to try to still my mind, which in turn is preventing my mind from becoming still.
As I move through the different stages, it seems like my mind is always there making sure I’m doing it right.
It’s like on one level my mind is randomly having thoughts which are being labelled as thoughts, but on another level my mind is constantly there waiting to label the thoughts and move my attention back to sensations.
Does that make sense? Is there a way to get around this? Or am I doing something wrong?
Nothing is wrong … it’s just a temporary phase.
I’ll try and explain how it works.
The modern human being lives in their attention – the interactive part of mind.
The attention is the part of mind that thinks it is you – and as ‘you’ it’s primarily concerned with everything that defines ‘you’, and everything it touches, it sees through the len’s of ‘you’, reacting in accordance with your habits, and projecting forward or backwards according to your desires and fears.
This is the part of mind that craves entertainment and sensual pleasure. It is a puppet of our habits and compulsions, and generally, is the most troublesome part of mind. Which explains our unique madness, considering we spend most of our time there.
But there is another aspect of mind that is deeper and limitlessly profound.
This is awareness.
We are aware before everything else. Awareness is the most fundamental aspect of being.
We don’t often notice awareness because we’re so busy paying attention to everything, but every so often, in peaceful moments, when we forget self-consciousness, we can accidentally slip into awareness, and it’s always a beautiful experience – extraordinarily tranquil and expansive.
But, as I said, most of the time we’re ‘un-aware’ of awareness … we prefer to work, play, daydream and worry in our attention.
So, then we decide to learn how to meditate.
In meditation, the main game we’re playing is to pacify the attention, to the extent that it becomes so subtle, it effectively fades BACK into awareness. At that point, our experience changes. We move from the hyperactive, attention driven chaos of thinking and emotions where we spend most of our life, into the tranquil, expansive and very still environment of awareness.
But sometimes we can get stuck in between, and its a strange state in which it feels as if one mind is observing another mind – and if we start trying to work that one out, well, that’s meditation out the window.
So there is is – you’re kind of straddling two mental environments – a temporary phase in which you’re aware of the attention at the same time as your attention is wondering who it is that is watching it … because the attention, being the egostic entity it is, has always regarded itself as the only one in there.
So now, as attention realizes its being watched … seemingly by itself … well, it creates a bit of a strange situation.
But as strange as this feeling is, it’s totally without meaning, and possibly a distraction from the main game – if you ascribe significance to it. So, as strange as it feels, don’t bother thinking about it when it happens.
Just note it, and meditate past it.
When this happens to me, I just note ‘self, self’ or ‘watching watching’ and continue on with what I’m doing … no drama, no fuss.
There are so many strange things that can happen in meditation – I’ve seen pairs of eyes hovering before mine, which felt as if they were gazing deep into my heart; I’ve felt imaginary ants crawling all over my body, heard music in the wind and watched whole movies projected onto my eyelids as I meditated – and all of it, in the end, was meaningless – the mind finding some new trick to distract me.
So this is what the noting is for, to help you to walk past the these mental twisters, and keep on meditating. Use the notes to reduce EVERYTHING …. strip away all the thinking from everything and leave it as simply what it is – a mental event of no consequence, or sensations – simple, sensations.
So walk past everything, because nothing in meditation means anything, until you reach the still place of clear, untrammeled awareness. And you’ll know when you’ve slipped into awareness, because there won’t be any wondering about it or thinking about it – you’ll feel more awake than you’ve ever felt in your life, and the stillness will be perfect just as it is – as pure experience.
So just keep going. That’s what the meditation methods are for.