Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nothing Special

A pitfall in meditation practice, as it is often perceived in our culture, is that something special is going to happen during the practice that will lead to some fantastic out-of-the-body experience. Because of this preconception, I often remind everyone at the beginning of a meditation practice that "we are not trying to achieve any special states or feelings." The truth is that nothing special ever happens during this practice, just the every day occurrences of life.

We feel the body sitting. Then we feel the body breathing in and out. When the mind wanders, which it does constantly, we awaken and return the attention back to the breath. Nothing special in any of it. After a while, we might be able to expand our attention to include other experiences as they arise, such as sounds, thoughts, emotions, and so forth, but these are still nothing special.

What is special, however, is the way we pay attention to these experiences during vipassana practice. We are doing so with conscious awareness, not on our usual "automatic pilot" setting. Once again, we have changed our relationship to an experience, and this, in turn, changes the experience itself into something special. We can see clearly how the mind habitually reacts in certain situations and how it moves toward things we want, and away from things we don't want.

Paradoxically then, we are achieving something special after all, and this awareness of the reactive habits of mind is a powerful tool that can help us to reduce suffering in every moment of our daily life.
If you continue this simple practice every day, you will obtain some wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you attain it, it is nothing special. ~ Shunryu Suzuki

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