I’ve noticed of late a frustration and resistance when I read other people’s meditation books, and it’s taken me a while to figure out what’s going on there. It’s not like I pick up a meditation book with the intention (conscious or otherwise) of being annoyed by it. I am, and always have been, interested in learning new techniques and ideas.
Every book is based on assumptions about who the reader is, and this, I eventually realised is the essence of my problem. Meditation books teach us how to quiet our noisy minds, how to still our inner chaos.
I’ve been meditating more days than not for more than half my lifetime, but many of the key effects had kicked in long before I hit my twenties. Unless I deliberately sit to allow mind wandering and wool gathering, there is no white noise in my conscious thinking. There may be a song playing on my inner soundtrack, but other than that I have one, clear and deliberate line of thought. Things coming up from my unconscious do so in bubbles, surfacing in a noticeable way that I can then follow through on deliberately. I can have moments of inner silence at will if I’m waiting for one of those bubbles. Noise and chaos are really rare and most usually a consequence of being ill.
Meditation books (mine included) don’t really have much to say to the person whose mind is already quiet, already disciplined and free from chatter. I’m very conscious of my own emotions, I don’t need to spend time in meditation noticing them because I have a good relationship with them already. And so I get frustrated reading books that tell me how busy, noisy and out of control the inside of my head is.
What comes next? Other than the day to day practical benefits of having a calm, single line of thought with room for things bubbling up from the unconscious, what do I do with meditation? Often the answer with any spiritual practice is just to do more of the same, only to do it with more depth. Do it slower. Do it more. I think for me it’s going to mean a deliberate process of working on bits of me I know are wonky and I want to change.
It strikes me though, that if all meditation books do is talk about the issues of inner noise, it’s not entirely helpful. Yes, most books talk about developing inner calm, poise and peace, but in terms of what that’s like to live with, I’ve not seen much insight. Like most things I suspect it is what we make of it, and how it plays out will depend on our choices and preferences. Inside my head is a single, clear voice, because I’m a wordy creature and it suits me to communicate with myself in language. Other people will likely get other things, based on what works best for them. What long term meditation creates is the scope to have the inside of your head work in a way that feels good and is functional. Perhaps it is as well no one out there is issuing instructions on what that should look like because it gives us all chance to develop on our own terms.