The Insight of Aimlessness

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Masters' Commentary on Aimlessness:

“There is a paradox here. We are meditating because we would like to improve our experience but the improvement comes by letting go of the struggle, letting go of our ideas about how it should be, and relaxing fully into what is here and now.”

-Nancy McBride-

"Leave everything as it is in fundamental simplicity, and clarity will arise by itself,
Only by doing nothing will you do all there is to be done."

-Dza Patrul Rinpoche-

"Do not depend on the hope of results.You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself."
-Thomas Merton-

To set out on a journey, not knowing or presuming what direction it will take, what we will find along the way, or what its ultimate outcome will be, givesus a chance to be intimate with however our path unfolds.
-Alok Hsu Kwang-han-

Mindfulness meditation is a technique of calm abiding & insight. We invite our body to be still, and our attention to rest completely with a chosen aspect of our present moment experience. Doing so, we become progressively more aware of our mind’s innate spaciousness, calm, and clarity. With this foundation, we begin to work skillfully and patiently with our attention, relating first thread by thread and then piece by piece with the sprawling, many-textured cloth that is our life.

The potential inherent within the practice is profound: to illuminate how completely and intricately interwoven we are with the whole of Life, to make clear the faultless ease, intelligence, strength, and clarity that always available to us (both in body and mind), and to invite our inner life and interrelatedness with others to come to a sense of integrity — of wholeness, or as Alan Watts described it, “finding the with-ness of being alive.”

Now. While that is all well and good, many people (myself most undeniably included) come to the practice of meditation with an agenda. There is some aspect of ourselves or our lives that feels out of place, exaggerated, or perhaps deficient — there is some part of us that we wish to “fix”, “change”, or “improve”. And for so long and in so many circumstances of our life we have been told that such change and improvement is a matter of diligent striving, of acquiring or earning or overcoming.

Want a nicer car? You’ll need a better degree or work harder to earn a higher income.

Want to lose 10 lbs? You’ll need to cut out sweets and start getting serious about exercise.

But it is crucial to understand that the benefits of meditation practice are not “achieved” or “gained”. More honestly, they are dis-covered. Paradoxically, any efforting or striving to achieve a particular result (like a ‘quiet’ mind) or to “fix” some aspect of ourselves (like “getting rid of” our anger) only distorts our experience, and thus delays or stunts the growth of our practice.

So that your practice might progress more easily, and with less complication and struggle, I offer this pointer: invite a sense of aimlessness into your meditation.

Now, do not mistake this aimlessness as my saying that it should be lackadaisical, or that you should simply allow our mind to wander endlessly in thought.

However, when your attention does wander into and become lost in thought, notice that. When you attention is continuously pulled over and over again to sensations of pain in the body, or gripped with emotion, notice that. Inviting aimlessness into our practice is a powerful tool for recognizing what in our experience triggers us, what keeps us feeling held back or stuck, or points to difficulties or aspects of our life that we may be glossing over. Insight arises only when we allow our meditation practice to show us who and how we are completely, without trying to manipulate, deny, or suppress our experience.

After all, in meditation there is no one to impress, no one to fool. Why hide yourself from yourself? Or from another angle, can you see how to continue to manipulate or deny your experience while meditating, is not other than deceiving yourself?

There are a number of developments which have led to the flourishing of mindfulness in the West in the last several decades, but chief among them is the idea of “mindfulness as self-help or self-improvement.” But viewing this practice in this way not only skews it, but it undermines its true potential. I instead invite you to consider the view of meditation in Tibet, which has one of the richest and most thorough meditation traditions in the world. There the word for "meditate" is translated as "gom", which means "to become familiar with.”

Meditation is not at all a means by which to measure or "improve" yourself. It is instead an opportunity to relate with yourself and your experience in a way that is clear, honest, and nonjudgmental. 

Inviting our meditation practice to be without agenda, to unfold as it will without trying to manipulate or control it -- provides us with an unmatched opportunity for clarity, and clarity is the foundation for true, lasting, and transformative insight.

May this instruction be of benefit.

-Brandon // June 2018-