Becoming Familiar With Our Minds

I want to talk about why it’s so important to become familiar with our own minds and our own experience. All of our teachers talk about this, but why?

Many years ago when I was first starting meditation, when I was practicing in the Vipassana model, I would try to follow the instructions carefully with varying degrees of success and frustration. But sometimes I would have this fabulous sitting with a great insight.  I was so excited.  I was greedy for another great sit. So I would think back on what I did that might have contributed to that sitting.  Well, let me think: I started doing this, then I did this, then that….  Never worked!!! I would sometimes go for 2 or 3 months with garbage for sittings. 

Now that raises another question: What exactly is a garbage sit??? What makes a sit great vs terrible, useful vs useless?  What happens when we label in such a way? All these questions are great for investigating.

But lets get back to what I was talking about.

During that 2-3 months of ‘garbage sits,’ I began to doubt that I even knew how to meditate.  Finally, I gave up in frustration, and slowly I’d have better sittings and finally another GREAT one!  And I’d repeat the same pattern. Over and over again. After several rounds of this, I finally figured out this was my pattern, and it wasn’t going to change and maybe I should forget about trying to change it and just go through it.  Ride it out so to speak. Maybe I’ll learn something about it.

I’m in theatre, an actor, and long ago a teacher said ‘You can never do your last best performance.  If you do, you will fail.  You will flat fall on your face.  You can only do this performance.’  Isn’t that a version of my experience in meditation?  What was I doing? Trying to do my last best performance.  Clinging, striving, trying to control conditions, trying to do my last best performance.  Little did my drama teacher know she was teaching meditation.

But learning that pattern through patient investigating is what changed things.  Through investigation, learning how my mind works, I knew what was going to happen and how I tried to change the pattern and couldn’t do it.  So I realized this is just a pattern of mine, ok so what? After a while, I found myself relaxing in it.  I got calm about a previously frustrating experience. 

We have so many patterns we’ve developed over the years, many useful ones. Those we keep for a time.  But the others that cause us frustration, stress, angst, dukkha, we can examine them over and over to learn their intricacies and then relax around them because we have come to know them. And sometimes in the process of getting to know them, they just change.  

Now isn’t that exciting!

Photo by he zhu on Unsplash

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About Erica Dutton

Erica Dutton is an experienced teacher and practitioner of Reflective Meditation. She has dedicated herself to sharing this practice so others can succeed in meditation, see their experience as important and valuable, and realize the benefits.

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