A Deceptively Simple Approach to Meditation

February 21, 2014

The meditation practice that I am describing here is the simplest thing you could possibly do. In fact it is so simple that you are already doing it right now without realizing it. It is a deceptively simple approach to meditation.

You have been doing it for as long as you’ve been alive and will continue until the day you die. In fact, I believe that you were doing it before you were born, and will continue after you die.

The meditation instructions that I will share cannot be done wrong. You literally can’t miss. That is why I sometimes describe them as a magic archery range.

The magic archery range has no targets. You just shoot in any direction and wherever you aim a target appears and you hit a bull’s eye…every time. It’s the archery range where you can’t miss.

When we are in a situation where we can’t lose we find out how difficult it can be for us to not be able to lose. That is because our minds are problem-solving machines, and they will create a problem out of anything.

As you approach this form of meditation you have to consider if you are ready to live a life where you can’t miss, if you are really ready to be truly content in a way that can’t be avoided, and if you are ready to give up the luxury of having a problem to escape into.

It is an important contemplation because until we are ready to have no problem we will continue to make problems for ourselves. As soon as you’re ready to have no problem you will discover a new world.

The instruction for this mediation is simply to have no problem. No matter what happens, don’t make it a problem. If your mind tells you that you have a problem, don’t have a problem with that. If you feel like you have a problem, don’t have a problem with that. If everything in you is saying you have a problem, don’t have a problem with that either.

It is a tremendously easy meditation to do for a short amount of time. When the time gets longer we find out how hard it can be to have no problem.

You can try it right now. Time yourself for five seconds while you follow the instruction to have no problem.

Having no problem is easy for five seconds because your mind doesn’t have enough time to even start looking for a problem. As you extend the time it gets more difficult.

If you are successful eventually you will discover something miraculous. You will realize that you don’t have to have a problem even if your mind does. When you realize this you will discover a profound degree of freedom from self-concern.

When you sit in meditation and your only instruction is to have no problem, one of the problems your mind will tend to create is that you don’t know what to focus on. “What do I focus on?” your mind will ask. And then it will probably start arguing that not having a focus is a big problem.

No matter what problem your mind creates, you will find that it always comes in the form of an argument your mind is making to convince you that there is a problem. In this case it might go like this. “What am I supposed to focus on? He didn’t tell me what to focus on. I don’t know what to focus on. This is not fair. It won’t work. I can’t do this. It can’t be done because there is nothing to focus on.”

That is not a problem. It is just a conversation happening in your mind. And that conversation, no matter what form it takes, does not have to be a problem.

Have you ever had a friend that complains all the time? No matter what happens, they always seem to find a problem to complain about. For a while, you might talk to them about their problem. But eventually it gets exhausting. After a while you don’t want to have their problem.

Your mind can be like that friend. It always has a problem, and after a while it gets exhausting.

Of course, sometimes your mind is your best friend. We all want to use our minds for the things they do best, but we don’t want to get involved with all of their problems.

Just like with your friend there are times when you just decide not to listen to them. They may even keep talking to you. But you’re not really listening anymore. The same thing can happen with your mind. It’ll keep saying, “I don’t know what to focus on. I don’t know what to focus on. I don’t know what to focus on.” And you just sit there.

It’s like a radio that is playing in the next room. You hear the sound, but you’re not listening.

Every problem you have will always be a conversation that your mind is having with you. All you have to do is not listen to it, and then you’re free. Eventually, your mind gets bored and stops talking, and that can be wonderful, but it doesn’t matter. The point is that we don’t have to wait for our mind to stop talking before we stop listening.

We might assume that once we decide to have no relationship to our thoughts and problems, that they will stop, but they don’t. Imagine driving a car down the highway with your foot on the gas. You may decide to take your foot off the gas, but that does not mean the car will stop. It keeps going. Just like your mind. You may decide to stop giving it your attention, but that doesn’t make it stop.

It takes time for your mind to stop because it has a lot of momentum behind it. But that is not a problem. You just let it go. It will coast to a stop eventually, and if it doesn’t, who cares. It isn’t hurting anything. It isn’t doing anything. It can’t touch you. So you’re free anyway.

One of the tricky things about the practice of no problem is that it has to be done all at once. There is no gradual way to approach it. You have to decide that from this moment forward you will not allow yourself to relate to anything as a problem – at least during meditation. From that point on you simply adopt the position that nothing is a problem – no matter what. Simple.

What often happens is that we keep catching ourselves in the middle of believing that there is something wrong and then bringing ourselves back to the recognition that nothing is wrong. Unfortunately the very act of bringing ourselves back implies that there was something wrong with wherever we were.

It is easy for this meditation practice to become all about remembering that there is no problem. But the practice is not about remembering that there is no problem; it is about having no problem. So we need to be able to have no problem with the fact that we forget and fall back into having a problem.

So what do you do when you realize that you have been lost in having a problem? Nothing. Once you realize that you were lost, you aren’t lost anymore and so there is nothing you have to do except have no problem with having been lost.

Every problem is just another voice in your head telling you that you have a problem. Those voices are often followed by other voices that tell you not to listen to that voice. Then other voices might start having a problem with all the voices. “You shouldn’t be thinking. You’re not supposed to be thinking. You’re not really doing it. I knew you couldn’t do it. You’ll never be able to do it.” Sound familiar?

Eventually, you realize that every problem is just another voice in your head telling you that you have a problem. When you realize that those voices are not you, that you are the one who hears the voices, something completely different happens. At that point you stop caring about what any of the voices are saying. The voices may fall away, or they may not. It doesn’t matter to you because you are free either way.

I once had the opportunity to do a meditation retreat for two months. I was meditating from four in the morning until ten at night. I had always had difficulty with falling asleep in meditation and during this retreat I was determined not to fall asleep. One day after about a month, I was meditating and I was very tired. It can be almost torturous to meditate when you’re very tired. Your eyes burn, your head hurts and you feel nervous tension running through your body.

As I was sitting in this very difficult situation a thought went through my mind. It said, “You’re not really tired.” And for some reason in that instant something profound happened, I realized that I wasn’t tired. I just happened to be looking through a tired body, but I was completely awake anyway. In fact I had never been other than completely awake. It is not possible to be less than completely awake.

Awareness is always on, and there is no dimmer switch. You can’t turn it down. Sometimes what you are aware of is a very tired body, but no matter what happens, I am always awake, even if what I am awake to is being tired.

When I went to sleep that night, I felt my body fall asleep but I was still there. Everything went black and I couldn’t feel my body. I was just floating in space. I thought, “This is cool. My body fell asleep and I’m still awake.”

Then a dream happened. It was like someone turned the lights on and I was in the middle of a dream. I thought, “I am dreaming and I am still awake. This is so cool.” Then the dream went away as if the light had been turned off again. There I was floating in space.

Then another dream appeared and disappeared. Then another. When my alarm went off in the morning my body woke up and I thought, ” I’m still here.” I started to wonder Who was asleep? Who is awake now? And what is the difference between meditating and just walking around if I am here all the time anyway.

The next night, the same thing happened. My body fell asleep and I was still here. I thought, “Oh, this is cool.” And I spent the whole next day marveling at the fact that I am always here. I am always awake. The next night my body fell asleep and I remained awake again. Then I started to worry that this might not be healthy and the very next night I fell asleep and I lost consciousness. I didn’t stay awake that night. When I woke up in the morning I was relieved and then disappointed.

What I realized from that experience will stay with me forever. We are always awake no matter how it seems. We were awake before we were born, and we will continue to be awake after we die. Whether we are aware of it or not in any given moment doesn’t matter. It is still true even when we don’t realize it.

The practice of no problem is about being with everything exactly the way it already is. Most of us live in a struggle with the way things are. As long as our energy is wrapped up in a struggle with the way things are, we are not available for anything more. As long as we are locked in a struggle nothing changes.

If you learn to accept the way things are your energy is free, your attention is free, and you are available to see things that you couldn’t imagine before. That is when you become profoundly available to evolve. When we learn to stop struggling with the way things are we are available to be lifted into higher possibilities.

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