Letting Go of Tranquility
I’m sorry I’ve been absent for a while, but I’ve been working on my novel, “The Sweet Burn of Emptiness”. It’s taken eight years for me to get to this final draft, so right now I’m focussing on that.
In the meantime I’ve received a few questions and they’re beginning to back up, so I’m going to deal with them as quickly as I can. Again, I’m sorry for my tardiness.
The first question is:
I’ve been using your audio course for about 6 months now and until a month ago I seemed to be progressing okay. But then one night I was meditating and I got this beautiful expansive feeling. It was like everything that weighed on me suddenly disappeared. All the thinking that was usually there was gone and my body seemed like it was air. It was very beautiful. But as fast as it came it disappeared and now I seem to be going backwards. Whenever I meditate the thinking is worse than before and I just can’t get back to that feeling.
So I’m wondering what I’ve done wrong and how to fix it.
You’ve done nothing wrong. There is no’ wrong’ in meditation.
There is only cause and effect. You do this, so you get that – you do that, so you get this. And each effect is neither wrong nor right – it is simply what it is. And though some effects are perhaps unpleasant, the trick is to accept every effect, both pleasant and unpleasant, with the same equanimity – to learn to neither desire or fear any outcome.
This level-headed equanimity is the key to meditation.
So try to let go of the notions of ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ and the desire to be ‘right’, and the fear of ‘being wrong’ – right and wrong and the desire and fear they carry with them make meditation impossible.
For that reason in meditation we also practice letting go of the concept of ‘goal’ – because wrong and right only apply if you have a goal – they appear relative to that goal. That is to say, we judge what we are doing as ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ according to how quickly and efficiently we are approaching our goal..
As I’ve said many times before – in meditation, there is no goal. There is only the moment by moment ‘doing’ of meditation, coupled with acceptance of whatever happens.
So this was your only problem here – you found a goal.
I remember before you experienced this extraordinary tranquillity, you were practicing well – in previous emails you spoke of ‘accepting the struggle’ – and you were amazed at how this in itself had a calming effect on you.
And in that equanimity, you worked well, and meditation developed in its own way, as it should.
But then this new and pleasurable experience happened. In an unselfconscious moment you accidentally experienced a glimpse of the new way of being that meditation is opening up in you.
And that experience was so intoxicating, and became so desirable, it formed a goal.
Suddenly there was something you wanted from meditation. So each meditation then became subject to assessment. You began meditatiing withing the disturbing question of whether what you were doing was taking you closer to your goal, or further away.
As such, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ came into the equation. And now you are lost in the anxious suffering that goals, and the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ that goals bring with them, creates.
In the life we lead, we commonly regard goals as essential. We use goals because the competitive culture we have created requires them. Which is why for most people, life is an anxious experience.
And even though we’re used to this anxiety. We even like it sometimes when it’s fun – we love the excitement of the carnival ride and the adventure – but regardless of whether it’s pleasuarable excitement or not, it remains as anxiety.
And anxiety has no place in meditation, because it blocks awareness. And it does this by channelling mental energy into our attention. As we pay close attention to whatever is exciting us, we’re blinding the part of mind we’re intent on developing in meditation – that wide, subtle, momentary and immense intelligence we know as awareness.
Awareness needs a mind that is calm, momentary and goal-less.
So, in meditation we practice how to be ‘goal-less’. We practice doing things for their own sake. We practice being absorbed in an activity without being distracted by expectations or judgement of progress. We don’t strive to get anything.
We learn to let go of everything, so that all that remains is awareness. Because that’s where true creativity lies – together with tranquillity, interconnectedness and our innate genius.
And that is a little of what you got a glimpse of.
And it came from the innocence with which you were practicing – you had no goal, you had no right or wrong – and in that intent and momentary innocence, your mind let go of everything, including its idea of itself, and you experienced the amazing luminescence of pure awareness.
And as you went “Oh! How beautiful!” you tried to grasp onto it and cling to it and make it your own – which caused it to disappear.
From then on, you sought to re-create it in meditation – to get it. It became your goal. And with that goal came the suffering and anxiety of mndane life.
This stage you have reached in meditation is normal, and every meditator at some point comes to it.
And I have to say, what you have just experienced is probably the most difficult stage of meditation, because it’s the final wall between the old conditioned mind you’ve been living in, of anxiety, right, wrong, linear thinking, desire and fear – and the new mind you’re developing of openness, awareness, intuitive thinking and interconnectedness.
So then – what to do?
The only way to deal with this is to let it go. Let go of what happened. Completely and utterly.
Go back to focussing on meditation as a technical process – purely technical. As you meditate treat everything that happens, whether tranquil or messy, as simply another part of an ongoing process in which you move from event to event, however fast or slow.
Your only purpose in each of these events is to allow things to happen without meddling – neither stopping things or clinging – letting go of everything.
In effect – you are practicing accepting and letting it go as a single, comprehensive action. Do this continuously – with everything! Treat everything that happens exactly the same, whether pleasant or unpleasant.
For this, the mental noting method is perfect.
Tranquility comes – note it and let go.
Pain comes – note it and let go.
Thinking is annoying you – note it and let go.
If you find yourself looking for calm – note that you are looking for calm, and let it go. As the mind becomes used to this constant letting go of everything, even its sense of itself, it will fall back into the awareness that is its base state.
And that is when it will rediscover its true nature, of which Gautama Buddha said:
“Wonder of wonders! This very enlightenment is the true nature of all beings, and yet they are unhappy for lack of it!”
The only way we can rediscover out true nature is by letting go. Of everything – even the experience of true nature itself.
‘BEING STILL – MEDITATION THAT MAKES SENSE’, Roger’s new book, is available now.
(The audiobook includes all the exercises, as well as ebooks of Being Still, to fit any device.)