G’day Roger,

Sometimes while I’m meditating, my mind is full of instructions about what I should be doing – things like: pay attention to sensations of weight, now pay attention to sensations of mass, now pay attention to the sensations of breathing, don’t forget to note the thoughts, et cetera.

Is that just something that will pass as the meditation process becomes second nature? Or do I note these instructions as thinking as well.

cheers.

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Hi,

The most simple response to this self conscious reviewing of what you’re doing in meditation, is to observe the self consciousness itself – note it, ‘self consciousness, self consciousness’  – and you might find the mind lets it go.

But perhaps I can add an interesting point of view that might help here.

We conventionally, and egocentrically, view the mind as a single entity – we talk about ‘my mind’ as if there is only one mind.  But actually, if we look at ‘mind’ in a different way, we see there are many minds – not just one.  That in fact, each habit we have, carries with it its own mind with its own world view, its own perspective and its own psychology.

For example, think about when anger is here – at that time, it’s very hard to imagine being happy, or calm – because ‘angry mind’ and all its stories is here.  And though for sure, it arose from ‘my mind’, nonetheless, it has its own sense of autonomy, and makes its own decisions and performs its own actions.

The stronger any particular habit/mind is, the more overwhelming and compulsive is its view and the actions that emerge from that view, and the more influence it has in the community of minds that each of us is.

So your one mind is, in effect, an ecology of many different minds, all jostling for position, each waiting for their turn at the wheel so to speak.

And none of these separate minds is ‘you’ per se –  they are all simply aspects of ‘you’. In fact, there is no one mind that is you – but in fact, ‘you’ are the constantly changing sum of all the many minds that constantly arise and pass away within the forum of the entity you call ‘ME’.

Now, I know this might seem a little hard to digest, but even if you’re having trouble subscribing to this particular view , nevertheless, it helps to entertain it in meditation, because it releases you from getting into a tussle with your ‘self’ – because within the terms of this particular view, there is no ‘self’ – there is simply a community of parts, each entirely handleable within the context of a greater community.

So then – when self consciousness arises – which I think lies behind this particular distraction in your meditation – it helps to note it as simply another mind that has arisen.  Don’t take it too seriously – just note it and move on past it.

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 But over and above this, there is another point I’d like to make – which is, please don’t forget the basics of what you’re doing in meditation.

You’re sitting.

That’s all you’re doing.

You’re learning to sit still for a long period of time.

So don’t focus all your energy on the methods and forget this simple, essential truth of what you’re doing in meditation.

Because everything we hear about meditation – everything we want from it – the health, the spiritual inspiration, the tranquility, the enlightenment – it all comes from this simple act of learning to sit still – then sitting still for long periods of time.

Simply sitting still, and being happy to sit still, IS meditation.

And even if you had never learnt how to meditate, meditation would still eventually happen if you sat still for long enough – though it would certainly be a struggle, because without meditation methods, sitting still is well nigh impossible for most people.

But nevertheless, if you did manage to struggle through all the hours, days and weeks of pain and misery that arose from this directionless sitting, stillness would eventually arise.

Meditation would eventually occur.

So the meditation methods you’re training yourself in are NOT in themselves meditation – they are simply tools – they are the tools you use to ‘fast-track’ this ability to be able to sit still. The methods help you to navigate through the anxious reactions your conditioned habits create in reaction to simply sitting.  As such, they are only a means to an end – they are not the end itself

The end, as I said, is to simply sit still – and be happy to sit still. And this ‘happiness to sit still’ is the key. This is what we’re learning.  Because we cannot sit still if we are not happy to be sitting still – if the mind is anxious and worrying, and the body is constantly reacting to perceived tensions and pain.

So, to be happy to sit still, we must learn to BECOME still. If the mind becomes still, then the body will become still, because body always follows mind.

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So then,  all we are doing in meditation training is teaching the mind to surrender to sitting still.  And, as I said, it is to that end we use the meditation methods – to help everything settle more quickly than it normally would.

The meditation process goes like this:

We sit to meditate, and as each anxiety or tension arises, we use the meditation methods help it release – focusing mainly on our mental reactions to sitting still. As the meditation methods coax the mind to stop struggling and let go, so too the body lets go – physical tensions in the body release.

As we practice each day, gradually the mind/body learns to let go more and more.

We begin to experience more subtle states of mind and body.

Increasingly our sense of mentality/physicality combines into a subtle whole which causes the cycle of mind/body reactions to unwind faster and faster.

In this unwinding thinking loses its urgency. We notice thoughts passing away in almost the instant they arise and we realize that thinking is not the source of mind – that thinking arises from a more profound source which is called ‘knowing’ – which is more a sense than anything else.

As we learn to know rather than think, mind becomes even more subtle, which causes the body to unwind even more. Sensations change even as they are noticed becoming more diffuse and characterless.

And at that point, we find we’re very happy just sitting.

At which point we see there is no need for the meditation methods – so we just sit.

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 So then … my point is, don’t cling to the meditation methods so much that you drive yourself mad by spending your time ordering the mind and body about like a staff sergeant on parade.  Always remember to tread the middle path between the vigilant discipline of the meditation methods, and the free flow of ‘just sitting’.

So then, what to do ….

My suggestion is this:  if self conscious mind arises and the meditation method you’re using become as intrusive as it seems to be, then stop – let the method go for a while, and just sit.

It will seem chaotic, but allow the chaos to happen. There’s only one rule – do not move or change posture, no matter how chaotic and uncomfortable it becomes.  Be with the discomfort as best you can as, within that un-moving body, you allow to happen whatever will happen.

You just might find the meditation methods will happen spontaneously – that the mind and body now instinctively know what to do, and you don’t have to monitor them as closely as you appear to have been doing.

After all this is why athletes train so hard – to make the detailed moves of their skill become so instinctive that they do not have to think about what they’re doing – instinct and muscle memory do it naturally.

For example – I have been meditating for so long now, that whenever I sit crosslegged I feel the mind and body naturally falling into the meditation habits I have trained them with – the taking of the posture acts like a trigger, and instinct and muscle memory take over.

So to conclude – whenever you find yourself lapsing into this kind of self conscious commentary on the methods, then stop and just sit still – however difficult and chaotic that may seem.  Stay this way for a while and see if the meditation method spontaneously occurs – if it does, well and good.  If it doesn’t, then wait a while, then perhaps start again.

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To buy the Practical Meditation Audio Course please click HERE …. ($50)

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