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Give up: a meditation technique
The most helpful kind of meditation for me, if I had to pick one, has been Do Nothing meditation. This is also referred to as Just Sitting, the Great Perfection, and a bunch of other things, since it’s been independently discovered by a number of spiritual traditions. I like Shinzen Young’s video on it quite a bit.
Generally, I think it’s a shit meditation if you’re depressed, or actively struggling with something that requires action. For those issues, I’d recommend a long walk, some journaling, or a sincere talk with a friend you trust. But if you’re dealing with normal mental strain, it can be astonishingly helpful.
Someone set up your mind in the following hilarious way. All day long you are tortured by vicious thoughts. If you try to make them go away, that, too, becomes an unhelpful kind of self-bludgeoning. However, if you tranquilly accept whatever you’re thinking and feeling, for a period of time, eventually a different, more pleasant state of mind obtains.
There’s something tricky about this, though. The other state of mind will not obtain if you are trying to make it happen. There is a subtle difference between accepting things, and accepting them so they will go away, and the latter is a way of punishing your thoughts and feelings for existing, which is something they will resent.
What also doesn’t work is trying to have the consciousness of a person with equanimity. This is such an easy mistake to make, for me in particular. Like, you sit down with the alleged resolution to Do Nothing, Accept, Surrender, but what you’re really doing is trying to wear the disguise of someone who has already done that and now has a blazingly clear mind, like a cool desert evening. “Maybe if I just do Monk Face, my consciousness will do Zen Guy things.” Unfortunately, no.
Here’s a reframe that’s worked for me. Now, rather than thinking of it as Do Nothing meditation, I think about it as Give Up meditation.
Like: give up! Give up on being better or different right now! You are going to be the stupid, frail person you are. Your thoughts are going to be hilariously, repetitively paranoid and self-serving. You’re going to avoid thinking about what you need to think about—limiting your Amazon spending, perhaps—and think about everything else instead, like that person who’s Facebook posts bug you. You will have difficult feelings that you are tempted to reject. That’s okay, that’s not an issue.
Want to do meditation in order to fundamentally transform? It’s not going to work, sorry. Transformations are possible, but not the kind you might hope for. You’re still going to be a person, deep down, a creature gifted with a mind that naturally outputs neuroses and insecurities as part of its normal functioning. What you can reliably transform is your attitude towards that, in this very moment. You can decide that the ways you are fucked up do not comprise a fundamental problem. At times, they are a practical problem, but not a fundamental problem.
And then, and then, perhaps, by the grace of God, or the Universe, or Randomness, you will experience a shift towards something else, a shift towards a kind of spaciousness that will make it slightly easier to work with what you have. It turns out that your inner manager will only relax once it realizes that you’re not interested in giving it more work right now. It’ll go do something else, just for a moment or two, which is long enough.
This is annoying to me, too. I didn’t make the rules. If you don’t believe me, and your head is screaming about how I’m stupid, that is totally fine. Give up! That’s the way it’s going to be right now.
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