This article continues where “How To Gain Self Discipline – A Personal Story, Part 2” left off. I recommend reading those two articles before reading this one. This is a crucial part of the story and you will get the most out of it if you have read the previous two parts.
Here I will discuss the conclusion of the 10-day Vipassana meditation course I took. I talk about the instructions we (the meditation students) received upon completing the course. I also talk about why I chose to follow the instructions and why training my mind through meditation became a top priority in my life.
In a nutshell, the human condition demands that we take responsibility over our minds. The future of our species depends on it. The solutions to the challenges we are facing today all over the world will only reveal themselves when take the time to look inwards, rather than outwards.
Now is the time for each of us to choose what world we want to create. Will it be more of the same? Or will it be a freer, healthier, more peaceful, joyful and loving world?
The answer to that question, as always, is up to you.
How I Became Serious On Meditating
The 10-day Vipassana meditation course was challenging. But I was able to make it through because I believed in the power of meditation to bring peace and focus to my life. At no point did I feel like quitting. The natural beauty of Valle de Bravo itself was enough to motivate me to stay. The meditation center was nestled next to a forest, it had green grass and fresh air. I could have stayed longer.
Also, the meditation course wasn’t cultish. There was no pushing of religion or dogma; all teachings were secular, focused on the nature of the mind and how to purify it.
Isn’t it telling that we all have a mind, yet few, if any, of us are taught how to wield it? The mind is our most powerful tool; it is the creator of all the science and technology which dominate our economies. In fact, the mind is the ultimate tool, the tool which creates all other tools.
Yet we, or at least I, never learn the basic principles behind how the mind operates and solves problems. In fact, it can be said that most of us are used by the tool instead of using it. The cliche “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master” holds here.
Most Of Us Are Slaves
Currently, most human beings live as slaves to their minds. But the situation is changing. This article and the fact that you’re reading it, is proof of this.
A 10-day meditation course is not enough to turn the mind from a terrible master into a wonderful servant, but it is enough to teach a person how to purify the mind. I will not describe the process of training the mind here, it isn’t my place. If you are curious about it you will have to visit the Vipassana website and see what it’s about for yourself.
At the end of the meditation course, the students are given instructions for continuing the purification of their minds on their own. The instruction is to meditate for two hours a day, once in the morning and once at night, in order to solidify the learning which took place during the course.
I know what you’re thinking “Meditate for two hours a day?!? That’s crazy, it’s too much, how will I do all the important things I need to do if I dedicate two whole hours to meditating everyday?”
Two Hours Of Meditation A Day?
Two hours of meditation a day is a tall order for most people. And I understand; for most people, modern life is as hectic as a sackful of ferrets on crack. If not more hectic. But at this point in my life I was no longer “most people.” I didn’t have a job, I had no financial obligations and I was in good health. I admit that is a privilege few people have.
I accept that I was privileged. What adult can afford to take the time off from a career or other responsibilities to discover the inner depths of their consciousness? Only adults who either have few responsibilities or are willing to send them by the wayside in order to work on themselves.
But saying that my privilege was the sole reason I was able to dedicate so much time to training my mind is theft. Yes, it’s theft. It’s theft of my agency.
I Still Had To Choose To Do Things Differently
At the time I was experiencing tremendous pressure to get back in line from multiple directions. My mother was convinced I was throwing my life away; she reminded me of my “terrible” choices every second day. My father believed I was going off the deep end. Social pressure to conform is real. We have evolved to respond to it, it kept us alive when we were undomesticated, living in an untamed world.
I was riddled with doubt. I felt like my life was passing me by; all my friends had jobs and were getting married, having kids and buying houses. While I was spending two hours a day meditating and even more hours holed up in my room, reading. I questioned everything, my sanity, my direction, my beliefs.
It was a challenging time; the moment you decide to make your own way in life is the moment you smash into the walls which have been built around your perception. Those walls which are put there, without us knowing about them, and which guide us to living cookie cutter lives, swathed in a stuffy blanket of timid conformity.
I Was Confronting My Walls
I didn’t know it then, but the harrowing doubt and enervating anxiety I was experiencing was the first confrontation with the walls which had been built around my perception. We always have options, as humans. I literally had infinite possibilities, yet I had been so conditioned to approaching life the same way as everyone else, and was expected to do so by the people closest to me, that I could see only ONE option going forward: get a job or return to the PhD program (I had the option to return, no questions asked, for up to a year).
Getting a job or returning to the PhD program were the same option, because either choice would lead me to the same place: dissatisfaction.
I knew that going back wasn’t an option for me. Nor was getting a job. If I made that choice I was only going to waste more time moving in a direction I didn’t resonate with.
Why was I going to contribute the best years of my life working towards some bullshit goal I didn’t believe in?
The Absurdity Of Modern Human Existence
The way I saw it, humanity was so completely focused on getting more done that no one stood up to ask “Why are we doing any of this?” Our attention was always on doing more; doing more science, developing more technologies, starting more companies, building more schools, prisons, supermarkets, fast food joints, research centers, particle accelerators, houses, condos, apartment buildings, bars, clubs, gyms, restaurants, hipster cafes, regular cafes, crop farms, poultry farms, fish farms, cattle ranches, coal mines, offshore oil wells, inland oil wells, fracking wells, cars, trains, airplanes, ships, iPhones, tablets and drones.
People were getting married, having kids, getting divorced, splitting up kids; getting degrees, getting jobs, getting entertained, getting drunk, getting high, getting fat, getting sick, getting lonely. People were also earning; earning salaries, promotions, benefits, yearly dividends, earning Nobels, Pulitzers, Oscars, Grammys, Golden Globes, Golden Turds and good credit scores.
Yet for everything we did it just seemed we were hastening our descent into catastrophe! For all our self-declared cleverness and ostensible achievement we couldn’t come together to stop the poisoning of our earth, the cutting down of the Amazon jungle nor end war, nuclear proliferation or hunger.
In fact, it seemed that for every problem we solved using our untrained minds we only created new problems which wouldn’t have emerged without our so-called “solution” in the first place. Within the last seventy years, science and technology, both products of our mental slavery, have given us the means to destroy ourselves dozens of times over. We’ve been insane for several thousand years, except now we have the tools to destroy life on earth as we know it in an instant.
Aren’t These Insane “Solutions”?
There are more examples of “insane solutions.” Think of pharmaceuticals with laundry lists of horrendous side effects; schools which kill creativity and inquisitiveness rather than nurture them; social policies which exacerbate segregation, rather than heal it; economic policies which make the rich richer and the poor poorer, despite wonks’ best intentions.
It was like the world had gone mad! No, it was already mad, that was the case since before I had even been born. I just hadn’t noticed the madness before. I felt like Alice, talking the Cheshire Cat, searching for explanations, when he tells her “We’re all mad here.”
And most people were either too blind to see it or too caught up in their own stories to care, and those few who did notice just kept quiet about it, resigned to their fates. While most people hoped; hoped things would get better if they just did more of the same things.
But action without reflection is doomed to lead us in unintended directions. And while most of us hurriedly act, we end up feeding our lives to the insatiable machine of civilization as it roars along its indifferent way towards planetary perdition. As if the problem lies somewhere else other than within ourselves. As if the next scientific or technological breakthrough will be the one, the final one which solves all our problems. The next business deal. The next acquisition. The next performance. Handcuffed to our treadmills of consumption with our distended bellies and dead, vacant stares facing forward, always with salvation coming in the next lap.
Jokes on us, because we put the handcuffs on ourselves in the first place.
I Was Done With Doing Things As I Was Conditioned To Do Them
No, business as usual just wasn’t an option for me anymore. I was done compromising. There just HAD to be another way. A more intelligent way. Better yet, a more compassionate, harmonious, healthier way. Not just for me, but for everyone. The universe was too elegant, too harmonious, too precise in its glorious beauty, for the case to be otherwise.
We are human beings, after all! We come equipped with the most advanced natural technologies which have ever existed. How can we, with our infinitely complex brains, bodies and minds, be failing to exist in harmony with the universe? How come every other animal instinctually establishes a balance with its environment, except for us?
We are not the exception. We have the innate capacity to live in harmony, with nature, with each other. In fact, we are nature, we came from nature, she is our mother; living in harmony with nature simply means living in harmony with ourselves. We did it once, we’ve just forgotten how.
Our Intelligence Is Being Tested
We’re lost. But the capacity to live intelligently and harmoniously with nature is dormant within each of us.
This is the ultimate test of our intelligence; rediscovering our capacity to exist in resonant harmony with everyone and everything. To create a world where our potential is nourished rather than managed; where health is the norm and is not for sale in a bottle or a knife; where trade takes place as equal partners, rather than competitors; where critical thinking, curiosity and creativity are encouraged, not stamped out; where communities are strong and supportive of each other, each with their own spark of uniqueness; where life is respected as the manifestation of the divine on this plane of existence, not as another chance to further control and domination.
Harmony is the way forward for us. It’s the only way.
It is our birthright.
It All Starts And Ends With Training The Mind
Somehow, I knew that the way of harmony started with me. It starts with each of us. It starts with training the mind.
Nothing was more important than reigning in the mind which had led me to make the choices which brought me so much misery. I knew that if I ignored my mind, allowed it to run amok like it did everywhere else in our civilization, I would be led down the same way I had come.
And that was no longer an option, because it had cost me years of toil and suffering. It had cost me my joy and freedom. It had cost me the relationship with the love of my life. And it had cost me the most important relationship we each have, our relationship with our soul.
So I did it. I stuck to meditating for two hours a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. It was tough, I had to rethink my priorities and remake my life accordingly. But I knew that if I wanted to be a part of the solution rather than the problem I had to tame my mind.
The Process Was Slow And Steady
Some days during my meditation my mind was more rebellious than others. One day it would be zipping from one thing to the next; this Rick and Morty episode, that book I read, this movie I watched, this other Rick and Morty episode, that person I knew, this opportunity I missed, that direction I chose… on and on it would go. You know how it is. After all, you’re human too.
Other days the mind would be calmer, more pliant. On those days the mind would briefly allow itself to be led to pacification, to a calm abiding. For a flash, I would experience a state beyond mind, like a drowning man who suddenly finds his footing and can stand above the waves. Then I would lose it, sometimes for the rest of the meditation, other times for a few minutes before it resurfaced.
Always there was change and movement. And always there was I, the silent watcher, witnessing it all happen.
Steadily, the moments beyond mind became longer, steadier and more evocable by me. I began to take control over my mind.
And with it, control over my life.
The rest of the story will come in the next, and final part, of this set of articles. I hope they serve you well, and inspire you to take inspired action in training your mind.
To our wealth and success.
Have you ever taken the time to question why we live the way we do? Have you ever wondered about what we can do to change things? Do you train your mind? I welcome comments!