10 years ago I was in a dysfunctional relationship, where everyday seemed like a constant push and pull between two wills over seemingly nothing.
I had read somewhere that meditation was an essential tool to achieve peace of mind, it just took disciplined practice.
Great! Discipline always came easy to me–I stuck to a rigorous training schedule with ease, strengthening the body while apparently leaving my mind behind.
Maybe meditation would turn me into a better partner (or maybe it’d magically turn her into a better partner…), and so I decided to give it a go.
With nothing but hearsay to fall back on, I decided to just sit down cross-legged and focus on my breath. Easy enough, right?
Sure enough, 15 minutes later I felt great! (Except my legs, punished into a pretzel position. It’s not why I stopped meditating by the way…)
As I walked out of the room, my heightened awareness would notice tiny new details in the surroundings, I felt calmer and my threshold for getting angry or going into an argument improved.
I was sold!
For the coming years I would continue to meditate everyday, and in just a few months I had pushed my meditation time up to 30 minutes and made it into a morning routine.
Developing the Meditation Addiction
It didn’t take long to become addicted. The first thing I’d do in the morning is nail the morning routine consisting of 30 minutes of meditation, otherwise the quality of the coming day would suffer.
It’s not a bad addiction to have, certainly not any worse than the regular cup of coffee.
Besides, I really enjoyed doing it.
What did strike me as odd over time was the codependency of it. When that dysfunctional relationship ended, meditation was the key to “surviving” it.
Experiencing rough feelings? Meditation will soothe things out.
Essentially, whenever my experience was perceived as hard or not good enough–meditation was the missing piece to turn a faulty experience into something better.
Thinking or Feeling?
One day my friend showed me a podcast of two Swedish guys with heavy southern accents, who proclaimed that your thoughts were the basis of your reality and always precedes feelings.
At this point I had meditated for a decade already, and gone deep into other esoteric concepts and practices.
I had become an energy healer instructor, read quantum physics and wrapped my mind around as much of David Bohm’s material as I could muster.
I had read 10 books on kundalini awakenings, done mindfulness courses, yoga, qigong, you name it… I’d even learned how to use energy to trigger hundreds of orgasms at will.
There was not a single doubt in my mind that feelings precedes thoughts, and that thoughts are merely the mind’s judgement of the feelings themselves.
From what I’d learned and experienced, this was the hierarchy of experience:
Sensations -> Feelings -> Thoughts
Sensations appear in the body. How the mind perceives the sensations determines how you feel. For example, sensations in the stomach could be perceived as anxiety or excitement, joy or stress.
Those feelings then translate into thoughts, where most of our lives drama appear to happen. For example, anxious feelings trigger anxious thoughts. This is also where we’d label it and call it anxiety.
“What if I forget what to say during my speech?”
“What if my partner secretly hates my carrot soup?
Oh the drama of “What if”.
But then something crazy happened…
The Observer Realization
I’d learned to feel my way through issues in life.
Issues are only issues because of their emotional charge. And by simply feeling that charge, it’d start to unfold.
This was certainly a functional way to go about things. And a great way to use my meditative morning time.
I learned to swim at age 27 thanks to gently feeling my fear, slowly but surely over time. This helped me get over my water phobia when not even 5 years of swimming lessons would help.
But one day when I was experiencing tension over something rather mundane and was about to start feeling the tension to unfold it–I noticed that something was different.
The tension, along with the mental pictures of endless drama that I was experiencing–wasn’t personal.
They weren’t my thoughts.
If you’ve ever been around meditation, the idea that “you are not the thinker” isn’t a new concept. But this was different, this wasn’t theoretical knowledge.
This was experiential knowledge.
I was the observer.
I experienced it.
Seeing Through the Narration
While the experience was dramatic, it was also subtle.
The realization was as clear as understanding that the sun is shining.
Over the coming days, tiny insights would present themselves to create a whole new way of being in the world.
I would experience a thought, and then notice my thinking.
As I noticed my thinking, a narration would appear that would say something along the lines of:
“Oh I’m thinking again, haha I can see right through it!”
But then realize, that was just the next thought, and as that realization set it–silence presented itself.
Just clear, silent awareness.
And then thoughts would appear again, but they were no more true or intrusive than a distant radio or TV, endlessly playing in the background.
It was all so clear, that endless radio wasn’t me, it never was.
It’s never personal.
Aftermath – Why I Stopped Meditating
I started meditating to achieve peace of mind. I wanted to improve my experience that I found wasn’t good enough.
Meditation did help to achieve that peace of mind, even if just for the moment.
But what I realized was that I was escaping my experience, because I had thoughts about my experience not being good enough, or as I wanted it to be.
Meditation was the was temporary escape, with slight echoes of peacefulness following the session.
But after the insight, I realized that there was nothing to escape.
Experientially, I understood that the Swedish guys from the podcast were right, thoughts create the basis of our reality.
But thoughts are no more real or personal than your regular tv-show.
When you truly can see through this, life becomes easy and free.
I stopped meditating because peace of mind wasn’t about doing anything, it was about realizing. Once realized, I was always meditating–peace of mind was just there.
The old adage “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional” becomes a living experience. The pain isn’t the main problem, your thoughts about the pain is.
This was so profound that I created the website https://www.selfinpeace.com to share these insights in hope of helping others get the same life-changing realization.
Why I stopped meditating can best be summarized with this quote:
Understanding leads to meditation more often than meditation leads to understanding.Michael Neill
Meditation is no longer a temporary state of mind, reserved for early mornings. Instead, it’s a constant state of living experience.
Meditation is a fantastic training wheel, and it has served me very well over the years.
But well being isn’t anything that needs to be practiced, only realized.
We all have an innate presence and well being, it just gets clouded by believing that our thoughts are personal. But no matter how many clouds are in the way, the sun is always shining.
If you are to only take a single thing away from this article, it’s this:
It’s not what we think, it’s that we think.