The Purpose of Suffering and the Secret to Meditating

Q: I was reading something by Ouspensky, in which he was remembering Gurdjieff and how Gurdjieff spoke of us living in something of a sleep state. There was this quote: “One thing and one thing only is therefore necessary. It is necessary for individual men and women to awaken, to remember who they are, and then to become who they really are, to live it in the service of truth. Without this awakening and this remembering, nothing else can help us.” How can you help somebody to remember?

The easiest way is to just create one example, one experience, when that person is shown how to remember. You only need somebody to remember once, and then the flame is lit, and it can never go out again because of that remembering.

Once you poke a hole in a movie screen and the light behind it shines through, you can never not see that light again. You’re always going to be drawn to the hole in the movie screen because that distinction of “I am not the movie, I am the light” captures people. Eventually, that light will continue to grow and grow until it becomes all.

We’ve all been so thoroughly culturally conditioned that we don’t even know what our own instincts are anymore. We don’t even realize what our motivators are anymore. That’s because we don’t know who the “I” is.

Q: But we think we do know?

Yes. But we really just know what we’re called and what we think of as the “I.” Really, this isn’t the “I.”

An easy way to visualize that is to think of it as we’re marionette puppets. A puppet has something outside of itself, moving it, and putting words into its mouth, creating the story it’s living in. We think it’s us. It’s not us.

The puppeteer is the culture. It’s our upbringing, our education. We’ve become a collection of reactions to stimuli. And we hardly stand a chance. It happens. This is the purpose that suffering serves. This is why suffering exists. Without some impetus, without some strong desire to get away from pain, people don’t become seekers.

You don’t just decide that I want to remember, I want to be awakened. I want enlightenment.

Maybe there’s a rare case where suffering isn’t part of it, but the catalyst for most people is the avoidance of pain. They don’t want to feel the way they’re feeling anymore.

That’s where we are at this moment in time, especially with another election cycle coming up and the craziness that comes with setting people against each other. Many people don’t want to be part of this anymore. They are looking for something that will take them in a whole new direction.

Q: You say that it only takes one instance of remembering, and then once you remember, you never forget. And everybody, at some point in their life, has had some breakthrough in remembering. So why isn’t everybody madly on the path of awakening, enlightenment?

Having a moment of awakening, remembering, doesn’t determine when somebody gets on the path. It only determines that they will get on the path.

They can go several more years or more lifetimes before they actively say, “This is why I’m here. There’s no other reason. I am here to awaken and remember and experience.

It can depend on the type and intensity of the remembering. For example, an intuitive experience or a synchronicity event is remembering. But these are often quickly brushed off. Havig a profound experience is harder to brush off.

Q: Ouspensky also suggests that it’s very hard. I actually found this kind of comforting because that’s my experience. He says,  for example, that trying to shut down the mind through meditation takes a long time.

The thing about meditation and shutting down thoughts is that people try to do it the way they do everything in this country. Violently and aggressively.

It usually goes something like this: “I will have no thoughts. No thoughts are allowed. Shut out the thoughts. I had a thought. Oh, bad thought. I’ve failed again. Have no thoughts.”

There’s almost a negative punishment loop that comes into play. It’s like, don’t think about an elephant, and then all you can do is think about an elephant.

The easiest way to develop in meditation is don’t worry about thoughts. They’re going to come. They’re going to go. You’re going to have more thoughts.

The idea is to get used to having them, not negatives but as just thoughts. And what thoughts do is they flow. Think of your thoughts as these are my friends, and they’re here, and they’re Chatty Cathys. But I’d like a moment of silence, so I’m going to focus on silence. I can still hear them chattering, and every once in a while, I’ll get pulled in. But I know I can pop myself back out from that because I really want to enjoy this moment of silence.

When you don’t make thoughts the enemy or the adversary, they don’t take on the struggle that they do for most meditators. Eventually, it gets easier.

If you think of meditation as the sensation of that time right before you fall asleep, when you’re not fully awake, but you’re not asleep, there’s no effort in that state. When you’re in that state, you need no effort to go to sleep. Sleep happens.

It’s the same thing with meditation. If you allow yourself to be suspended in awareness where everything’s still happening, but you’re in this really relaxed space, you’ll drop into meditation.

It’s like with remembering. Once you do that once, it’s easier to do it again and again and again, and then it builds up. “Oh, now I know what this is supposed to feel like.”

The biggest problem with meditators is they don’t even know if they’re meditating correctly.

Am I meditating? Have I reached a deeper state?

This was a big thing with Transcendental Meditation. How do I know if I’m doing it right?

Q: You’ll know when you know?

It’s all right. There is no wrong. There is eventually having the experience where you get into the groove of focused attention.

It’s like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle. You fit one piece and then you don’t get the next five pieces. But you don’t say, oh, crap, I’m not going to work on this puzzle anymore. You reorganize the pieces and go back to trying to make the pieces fit. But people look at meditation as though, no, it’s this one piece. If I don’t get this piece to fit, if this next piece isn’t right, I’m doing it wrong.

It’s the way the Western mind sets up our understanding of what we think meditation is and what we think we need to do to achieve it.

Yes, there are specific meditation exercises that require specific practices and disciplines to get specific results. But, in general, meditation is just sitting down and being quiet for a period of time. Be aware that you’ll have thoughts, but try your best not to follow those thoughts and think more thoughts about them.

That’s it. That’s the extent of it.

If you can do that, you’re meditating.

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