It took me an unusually long amount of time to figure out why observing thoughts during mindfulness meditation practice made sense. Every now and then I would practice long enough to withdraw and feel like a zombie, a witness that just looked at a never ending stream of water going down ending up in a hole that did not seem to have a bottom. Sometimes it would overflow, but sometimes the stream would get so dry it would feel dreadful, “Am I going insane?” was a recurring thought; you realize later that that thought was part of the stream, too. Sometimes I would take the bait and think of having no thoughts. The ego takes on so many different forms, it’s outstanding. Alan Watts once said that traps exist for as long as there is someone to trap.
I guess there’s no avoiding it then. Sometimes you fall, other times you avoid falling without knowing there was a hole and sometimes you are conscious and purposely avoid a trap thanks to experience. What matters, is to understand that the trap is a lesson, not a punishment. Think of it as a ‘forward-moving failure’ and carry on. The rock you’ve been carrying for so long; put it on the ground and look at it. Get to understand where it comes from, why you carry it. There’s some great outcomes out of that exercise. You can learn to leave the rock behind, you don’t need it anymore, or you can become happy, you love carrying it, you give it a new shape by sculpting out a beautiful statue.
I wasn’t convinced with observation, it looked like I was the witness of a quarrel. It felt right to intervene. Why would I watch passively? At some point you can say that interfering is justifiable, but in general, experience suggests otherwise. As you look at the quarrel you are receptive. You get comfortable in your discomfort. You learn to understand what is going on. THEN and only then can you see beyond the quarrel. Intervening too soon results in the creation of a new, not-so-obvious ego that somehow justifies your intervention. Of course that takes energy and sooner or later you feel wretched.
There is a moment in practicing mindfulness that makes you feel worst-off. I remember having this thought a few times. I would go on and say that ‘I wish I had never meditated’. It’s funny. It’s part of the stream too. When you set off at sea, the nostalgia of the land and the vastness of the ocean can threaten your psychological well-being. That being said, once you get it, you get it. There’s really no turning back and if there is, you won’t be the same.