When writing a blog, it is a best practice to think of the reader as you write and how your words may help them. It is as equally important to write from the heart and to be honest. I wouldn’t say that I have been dishonest, but I have not been entirely transparent. Since my return from the ten-day Vipassana Meditation class in December 2017 at Joshua Tree Retreat Center I have allowed some of my daily routines to slip and I have begun to see the consequences. What are the consequences? Becoming more critical, short-tempered, and slowly growing less empathetic towards others. This in conjunction with increased self-absorption. Let us be honest with ourselves 99% of the time almost all of our thoughts are about ourselves or how the things going on around us are affecting us. It takes conscious effort to escape the prison of self when we are engaged in the daily activities of our lives. However, since the ten-day course, I have crossed into the 99.99% category of self-absorption. Which in the past has led to many troubles for myself and those around me. So, I am going explain the process as I have experienced it so you can avoid it or when you are going through it, you can relate.
Up until the time I left for the class I was one cool customer. It was as if nothing bothered me. I was able to go through my day actively calm and calmly active. This isn’t to say the judgments passed. One thing I discovered during those ten days was how judgmental and condemning my thoughts can be. I suspect many of you are the same, but the judgments get lost in the haze of continuous thoughts. This isn’t to say were terrible people, but it is how we're wired. At the base of our brains, we are wired to survive, not be entirely altruistic. So during the ten days of no talking, no reading or writing, no TV, phone, or computer I was able to become an insightful observer of my thoughts. Without the constant input and distraction, my thoughts slowed down considerably. I could watch a thought from its beginning to its conclusion. Which is a remarkable sense of awareness. I have never been in that state before Joshua Tree. The challenge was I was constantly and continually judging everything and everybody. It was alarming the level of judgment I had for people with whom I had never met or even exchange a politeful hello with.
Although I had this insight of harsh unfounded judgment, calmness, and compassion were dominate after the course. When I changed my habits these traits slowly but surely changed.
With the gradual lack of self-discipline, some of the old “self” has been making some appearances. The old "self" was not always the most charming and likable person.
In my defense even though some of my daily routines had slipped, I still kept up the daily meditation. Which has lead to a great insight. I have been practicing Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka since Joshua Tree. However, there are two parts to Vipassana Mediation. Part one is to focus on the sensations of the body and practice being the observer, part two is Metta Meditation. Metta Meditation is a meditation on compassion for others. Goenka cautioned us about the importance of doing Metta Mediation. If we don't we will become too self-absorbed which is exactly what has happened.
Back To One
Where does one go from here? You go back to what got you to where you were; you go back to step one. We as humans when we become content we can get lazy. I recall one the Buddha’s greatest sayings “What is bad for you is easy to do, what is good for you is hard.” So if you catch yourself being lazy or dropping the habits that got you to where you were don’t spend any time beating yourself up or wondering how you went backward. Just go back to one. Go back to the practices that brought about the progress and inner peace. Go back to step one and get uncomfortable again.