As I said in my prior post, a few folks take to meditation naturally. The first time they sit, they drop into calm serenity and/or into a state of deep concentration, picturesque, like a lovely little Buddha, they seem only a few shades away from complete and total enlightenment. Well, good for them, but that’s not me, and that’s not most of us, and in a sense, that’s not really the point of meditation.
I know the format for this particular meditation retreat, this being my fourth one. It’s between 10 and 11 hours of meditation a day for ten days. Mostly, it’s just sitting and sitting and sitting and sitting. And more sitting. And you start to feel bat shit crazy.
The mind and emotions get more than a little wild. For most of us, the brain will calm down, eventually, as the retreat goes on (but that doesn’t mean it gets easier, necessarily). The mind will usually calm down a little, but it needs a few days of serious meditation in order to de-frag and relax, because most of us are used to a steady stream of distractions, from the moment we wake up until the time we go to sleep — and our culture is pretty much organized around distractions. These days, distracting the consumer (via some techno-gadget) is probably the number 1 way to monetize.
At some point, though, on the first day, most of us reach a point of frustration and scream, “Why is it so hard to sit still!” Hopefully we scream using our inner voice and not out loud, but you never know.
That leads quite naturally into a very rational question: Why is it so fucking hard to sit still?
I spent a lot of years asking that question and trying to find the answer. Eventually I realized that there is no answer. The point of the question is to ask the question itself and see where it leads.
Meditation is unlike many spiritual disciplines in that it is highly personal. From the Buddha down to the present day, the primary point of the practice is to know your own mind, to discover how it works. It takes us deeper into the way we think. Going “down the rabbit hole” as I sometimes think of it can be a bit crazy, but that’s only because we’re getting to know the randomness of the mind in a way that we don’t normally encounter on a day to day basis.
During normal life, we have distractions that our minds follow: events and people and sounds and sights and thoughts. And if that isn’t enough, just hop on the Internet, another rabbit hole of its own.
Answering the question (Why is it so fucking hard to sit still?) becomes a way of knowing the mind, and knowing the mind is a way of knowing ourselves in a more intimate way. For those of us who meditate, there’s nothing quite like it. It may suck, a good bit of the time, but the reason it sucks opens up a whole new level of self-knowledge.
Note: I am currently sitting on my ass for a 10 day meditation retreat. This post was written and scheduled in advance.