The battle for the self and the essence of being

The other day in a meditation session I arrived at an insight – roughly represented in the doodle.

In my best sessions when I can get to that calm place, insights arise.

Finding that place of calm, focus and insight is difficult and not always achieved in a meditation session. Sometimes just getting to calm is my best outcome. That’s because of all of the things that come into play to take you away from that place.

This situation is kind of a metaphor for life. I wanted to write a post to share my insight about why meditation is such a powerful tool. It can lead to many insights and one of the most important is about our true self.

In meditation, many things keep us from practicing well with good outcomes. Discomfort with sitting, distractions like noise, thoughts, etc.

In life, many things detract from the ability to enjoy and be productive every day. Some are cirmcumstancial and others of our own doing.

If we can but learn to see past circumstances, distractions and our own bad habits, we can arrive at the essence. The essence is where we are enjoying who we are and what we are doing. When we are in that state of being, we can be productive and lead meaningful lives.

Being aware of the barriers is the first step. Doing that consistently takes practice. Meditation is one such practice.

Getting to the truth or essence you can then start distilling that further and form insights about reality.

Allow me to elaborate on the main elements in the doodle.

Distraction

These are the minutea that get in the way of a focused, productive and enjoyable life. Many are of our own making and we allow, even encorage them. Whittling away fruitless hours on social media with the contsant dings of notifications to entrench it. Endless but pointless to do lists that don’t have any meaningful outcomes – shallow work instead of deep work. Even circumstances that require our attention but we sometimes overblow just because it allows us to avoid facing a painful self.

Ego

This is the persona or identity of who we would like to be but is most often the furthest away from our true selves.  It could be the vision of the person we would like to become yet so frequently becomes a mirror of what the media and modern society tell us we should be. We very often face a battle between the structural identities of our idealised selves that Freud wrote about: Id, Ego and Super-Ego. We can spend hours playing out these mental games without any discernable enjoyment or benefit as research is increasingly showing.

Thought

Many of the thoughts we have when we have the time and are not distracted by the mundane, are useless. They are often in service to the ego as mentioned but can be equally mindless as other distractions. Daydreaming for example is a pernicious type of mind wondering that research has started to show is either useless or even leads to unhappiness. Mostly it is the aimless flitting from one thought to the next characterised in Buddhism as the Monkey Mind.

Emotion

In my doodle I have emotion as an offshoot of thought. I often find I have a thought and the emotion follows. If the thought is negative, the emotions that arise are negative. This flows into an ever downward spiral. I’m no psychologist and have no idea if this sequence is correct. This is just my observation. In the long term its as if continuous thought leads to a cementing of an emotion. It becomes ingrained, like a habit. At some point I feel like these habitual emotions start leading and effecting my thoughts. The key of course is to stop the cycle and mindfulness and meditation practice always does.

Essence

When I mediate and achieve that state of untrammeled calm I recognise a form of being that is pure. It’s a pretty beautiful state and feels authentic, not shrouded by any masks. It is also thoughtless and emotionless. But it doesnt mean that insights cannot arise. These insights are sensed. They don’t become articluated into thoughts until afterwards. It’s difficult to describe which is kind of the point. Our words are just a way to attach meaning to something. Most often we confuse and get things wrong by applying our cognitive biases.

In my best sessions I sense this state to be the true version of myself that is fully present and aware. A state of mindfulness that leaves me refresed and focused for the day. Over time I’ve become more attuned and closer to this state on a permanent basis. Every so often I achieve these breakthrough insights.

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