Really, it is not a requirement, and neither is any other habit, practice, or technique - nothing is a requirement for life. But all these amazing tools are available to us - so what do we do from here?
“Meditation is what we are, not what we do; the separate self is what we do, not what we are” Rupert Spira
I was talking to someone in the Heartfelt Presence room last week who was struggling to meditate. I presume he’d been told, or read somewhere, that meditation could help with his addiction. But it wasn’t having that effect. He had resistance to it and wasn’t finding it useful at all.
We talked about meditation not being required to reconnect to who you really are, or indeed to change your experience of life, but that if meditation makes sense, it’ll keep happening, and if it doesn’t make sense it’ll stop.
Of course, it can feel like you’re miles from home, miles from being who you really are, but you aren’t, not really.
And so the same is true of any spiritual exploration, or indeed any personal development journey.
Prior to discovering this work I do now, I really thought you needed to work hard at being a good person, or your best self, by ‘using’ practices or applying techniques and I’ve tried many of them! I’ve ‘used’ gratitude practices, personal reflection, journalling, NLP techniques, vision boards, mindfulness, meditation, walking in nature, chakra work, breath work, sound therapy…there’s an incredible cornucopia of things available!
And there is nothing wrong with any of them, but we’re brought up in a paradigm of ‘learn and apply’ - ’read these top tips or success strategies and apply them to your life.’ All of it founded on ‘you’re not OK but do this and then you will be because you’ll be there’ with ‘there’ of course being the elusive and illusory idyllic future where the equally elusive and illusory ‘self’ imagines it will be dancing through daisies every day.
But the paradoxical thing is that the more the elusive and illusory self tries to get ‘there,’ the more ‘there’ is out of reach. Its own activity of thought veiling the very beauty, connection, and security of home that it seeks.
What’s going on?
When we apply practices or techniques from the space of a separate self that is not OK and which thinks it needs to be somewhere else, the suffering will continue in some form, quite possibly now in the berartion of the self that can’t successfully apply the technique, or can’t do it well enough, or not consistently enough.
But the problem isn’t in fact that you’re terrible with the practice or technique, nor that the practice or technique is faulty, it’s because the thought-created-self is layering stories and judgements over the top of it all.
It can do this from the very beginning, putting the cart before the horse by using its ‘learn and apply’ strategy - ‘they’re doing it and they seem to have that wonderful life so I’ll do it too’. But the wisdom that made that technique work for that person at that time and in that way, was perfect for them - not for you.
If or when the time is right for you, practices will come into your life with ease at that perfect time and have the desired effect, and then they might go again. All good - because none are required for you to be OK.
And if there isn’t the ease of practices ebbing and flowing, there’s an experience of the self trying to make life do what it thinks it should be doing based on ‘my’ thought-constructed agenda and timelines - which is also fine - the suffering in that experience is also perfect, beautifully timed and the exact discomfort you needed in that moment to wake you up from the dream of imagining you were lacking.
In hearing that meditation, or any other practice, is not required the mind can say all sorts of things.
1. It might resist the suggestion that a practice is not required, especially if it’s one which the self believes is keeping ‘me’ on an even keel, or keeping me emotionally intelligent or enlightened. It’s OK - no practices are being taken off the table. Everything is still available and, as I said at the start, they’ll continue to happen for as long as they make sense to happen.
2. The mind might also say, well let’s just stop it all then! What’s the point if they’re not required? Notice this kind of coin-flipping of the mind from I must do this’ to ‘well what’s the point?!’. That level of the mind only works in black and white so it doesn’t know, and can’t imagine, any other possibilities. Instead, consider that we are the same as nature, and nature evolves and changes gently and emergently. If a practice is going to come or go, it’s going to do so gently and emergently. Dramatic lurches are usually a sign that the mind is trying to ‘do life right’ by its own limited, black and white rules, and it’s own made-up version of ‘right’.
Instead, just notice for yourself
With any practice or habit or technique you’re using, where is there contraction?
*Where is there an idea that I need to do this in order to be OK?
*Where do you notice that, when something stressful happens, you now reach for the meditation whereas before that was the wine or a cigarette? (For sure it’s preferable to rise above than numb-out below thought, and yet the idea of lack and need is the same.)
*Where is the idea that you need to do it at this time on this schedule or in this way; creating more stress rather than less?
*Where is there self-narrative chattering away telling you you’re terrible at it, that it’s not working for you because you’re not capable of doing it right. Or maybe saying you haven’t got time for it, why are you doing this, look at all this other stuff you could be doing?
*Even notice where the narrative says you’re better than others by doing this - I am more conscious, enlightened, got-it-more-together than they do. A sure sign of the self at play because it does judgement, separation, and comparison very well.
*And lastly, notice if the practice has become deadened. Are you just going through the motions? Still doing it, even though the magic of the practice when you first started seems to have waned.
All of these point us back to see that the habit, practice, or technique is not the magic in and of itself. The magic is in the experience of doing it at the perfect time for you: whether that’s because it’s bringing you the very change you’d hoped it would bring, or because it’s here to show you the resistance of the self-narrative for what it is - and maybe both!
In being present to all of this, you find you more easily wake up to the confusion of the illusory ideas of a self who needs to be fixed, or better, or more enlightened. You remember who you really are, you remember you’re home and that you never left, and then you watch to see what practices or techniques come in or don’t; which drop away and which stay. Now enabling more change than ever seemed possible when you were trying to use them to make change happen. Freedom.
With love, Helen
Lovely Jonathan! Thanks for your comment and yes, if we try and force something because we think we should we will get the message to stop. And then when it comes at the perfect time - naturally - it’s perfect!
Very interesting article!
I remember my difficult experience. I tried to concentrate for a long time, to fight with conflicting thoughts that prevented me from meditating. Once I was exhausted, the struggle was over, but I didn't even want to think about any meditation. It was as if I burned out then. Since that moment, some time has passed, I went on vacation with my wife to the sea and one day I was resting in the evening on the couch in complete silence to the sound of the sea and I felt like an electric shock. I managed to find peace and meditate for about an hour. Whatever happens, it's all for the best!