God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites so that you will have two wings to fly, not one.
Part 3 – This article
Last year after my silence practice, I felt like I had never felt before. My meditations were deep and powerful, my mind was calm, my energy level was high and my love for others was intense. I only had positive things to say about my practice. People were surprised when I told them that this year I experienced almost three weeks of intense mental suffering. I would like to share with you what I learned from that suffering and I hope it helps you in your meditation practices.
The two main causes of my suffering were self-condemnation and expectation. Let me try to explain how self-condemnation affected me first. One of the interesting things that I have observed in myself since beginning the practice of yoga, is a very strong idea that I need to improve myself, that I need to become perfect, so that I can experience ‘samadhi’, ‘enlightenment’ or some other over-my-head kind of thing. I do not know if that idea was there before I learned about spirituality or if the practice of yoga gave that idea a chance to manifest itself, but that is actually not so important.
What is important is that this idea of having to improve myself is based on another idea: “I am not good enough”. This idea is one of the most dangerous things I have encountered in my life. The moment that I started accepting this idea, I stopped accepting myself. Not accepting yourself is fundamentally unyogic; the first practice of yoga is the practice of ahimsa (non-violence). Practicing ahimsa means practicing love. Love means accepting all and rejecting none, that means accepting yourself as well as others.
Why does the practice of yoga begin with accepting all and rejecting none? One reason is that meditation that starts from “I am not good enough”, turns into a frantic experience of trying to become something, trying to achieve something and trying to do something. But meditation only happens when effort slowly stops and a calm, relaxed, concentrated, peaceful and joyous awareness remains. The only thing that you become when meditating from the “I am not good enough” idea is depressed and/or frustrated!
That depression and frustration is exactly what I experienced this year. And I experienced it very intensely. Even though I had already let go of a lot of my self-condemnation, that which is still present in me came forward in a very strong way.
There are two reasons that I was able to learn from my self-condemnation. One reason is that by experiencing the madness of trying to achieve something for a long period of time, I began to understand the uselessness of it. Another reason is that, whenever it was needed, Wolfgang reminded me to stop with condemning myself.
Some self-condemnation still comes up in me every now and then, but now it does not influence me as it did before. I do not know if a tidal wave of self-condemnation will rise in my mind on another occassion, but I also do not fear it.
The second cause of my suffering was my expectation. A great teacher of meditation once said that he has observed something very interesting in almost every practicioner of meditation. The first time a newcomer meditates, he has a wonderful experience, the second time he meditates, he has wonderful expectations. The point is that meditation is great the first time because there is no expectation, and the second time it is not because of expectation.
Even though I knew all of this, it still happened to me. Last year I had a wonderful experience and I expected it to be like that again this year. It was in fact worse, I was expecting it to be better! And in this way I created an experience of frustration for myself. I was not getting what I expected (and desired), so I got frustrated.
The most interesting part is that I was realising that expectation is causing problems for me, so I tried to let go of my expectation with the expectation that my meditation will improve! It shouldn’t be hard to imagine how my attempts only blew up in my face because of this.
As with the self-condemnation, I began to understand the uselessness of my expectations better by experiencing the fruits of my expectations intensely. And again, Wolfgang was there to help and remind me of the suffering I was creating for myself.
What’s more, I misunderstood my suffering as me having some sort of defect (more self-condemnation), because I thought that meditation should make me feel wonderful (expectation). A few days before my practice came to an end, I was free of this vicious circle because I realised that everything I was going through is simply a part of my development and learning process. The realisation came from that wonderful Rumi quote that you can find at the beginning of this post, I’d like to invite you to reread it. When I experienced freedom from this vicious circle, I understood the importance of mental freedom, the subject of my previous post.
With this I’d like to end the sharing of the lessons learned from silence this year. Do let me know if it the posts on my silence practice are helpful to you in any way!
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