Missing the Point of Meditation
I recently finished my second Vipassana meditation retreat and I’m glad I went back because I missed the point the first time around.
After the first retreat I was euphoric. I had a spiritual experience that amounted to a deep belief that everything is going to be ok. It had a profound impact on my life.
I didn’t know that meditation could go so deep so fast and I felt the urge to run around saying things like:
*You can dissolve into a mass of vibrations!
*You’ve spent your life looking out, try looking in!
*Consciousness is universal!
All this despite the teacher telling us a hundred times not to fixate on sensations. The point of the practice is to remain equanimous, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant the experience, in order to retrain our minds to be less reactive and more peaceful in everyday life.
There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation. If you get distracted, who cares. If you feel great, who cares. Whatever happens is fodder to practice not reacting.
I heard what the teacher said, but I didn't understand it. In one ear and out the other. Holy shit, I could feel my brain vibrating! I had to go back.
During the second retreat, I was hitting a blind spot where I couldn't feel vibrations on one part of my body. It stressed me out and I started striving to try and feel something. In an attempt to follow the teacher's instructions not to focus on the sensation, I started telling myself to relax, don’t react, relax, don’t react.
Then it hit me. I was reacting to my reaction, like a parent screaming “relax!” at their already anxious kid.
It was the first time I realized that being equanimous is different from thinking thoughts about equanimity. I spoke with the teacher and he told me that instead of thinking about not reacting, I should observe myself reacting.
It became clear that my stress was simply my respiration rate increasing, certain muscles contracting, and so on.
It’s hard to describe but the more I observed the stress the less personal it felt, similar to how things can appear clearer when you see them in someone else. The more perspective I got, the less powerful it became.
I started laughing. I’d spent most of my life an unknowing slave to my emotions, subconsciously running toward pleasure and away from pain, even when it gets me into trouble, and those emotions, which can be so all consuming at times, are just temporary sensations made of a little extra respiration here or contraction there. WTF!
It’s not like I’m a master of my emotions now, they still take me for a ride. But every once in a while I’m able to stop and smile at how funny the whole thing is.