I have been meditating on and off for over twenty years, and it has been quite a journey.
Sometimes it feels smooth, easy and “right”. Other times, I struggle to focus my mind for more than twenty seconds at a time.
There are many schools of thought regarding meditation, but most will agree that any time you spend on it is worthwhile.
I certainly agree, but I also want to get the most from my meditation sessions. Over the years, I have been seeking different ways to learn more.
Exploring Guided Meditations
Earlier this year in Koh Phangan, I attended guided meditation and reflection sessions hosted by an eminently wise American named Stan.
These deeply meaningful hours spent in a cool shala by the ocean were a highlight by themselves. We explored challenging topics and shared peaceful hours in our small, diverse group.
Yet there was one simple instruction that opened my mind and has stuck with me for months afterwards.
“Explore the Space Between Thoughts”
Sometimes it is hard to put into words the concepts of meditation. We are taught to clear our minds and focus on our breath.
We progress by slowing down and controlling our thoughts. This raises deeper questions about identity – Are we our thoughts? If we have no thoughts, do we exist?
The goal of these questions is to explore consciousness. This is where that simple instruction opened my mind at the right moment.
Simple Statements Can Open the Mind
It helped me to see that there is something else happening in our consciousness as well as thoughts. Something we can’t describe with words. We can only experience.
We can catch a glimpse of that by looking for the space between thoughts. Sometimes that glimpse can expand into a deep understanding.
Another lesson for me here was that sometimes a simple instruction or insight could unlock a sudden understanding.
This is a characteristic of Zen Koans, which can often seem nuanced and confusing. Yet they speak deeply to the right person at the right time.
It is not this isolated instruction that has unlocked your mind. It is an accumulation of knowledge and experience that finally “comes together” by looking at it in a slightly different way.
It is true wisdom to be able to open up a mind and pass on a complex idea in a few concise words.