In mindfulness practice, we find ourselves noticing the habitual stories that play in our heads on a loop, often causing us great misery and pain. By noticing and getting some distance from these stories we can start to break free from their unconscious pull over us. As we start to loosen our attachments to those those old unhelpful stories, our minds become free to tell new ones.
Emotional complexity can arise out of a relatively ordinary situation. Our human capacity to feel and track emotions is somewhat ridiculous in its scope and power. It’s all part of our nature as intensely social creatures. The social world is our habitat, and emotion is the intelligence of social existence.
After minutes of aimless mind wandering, you’ve had the a-ha moment, waking up out of the reverie and now you actually have a choice again about what to do with your attention! Congratulations, but it is what you do next that is absolutely crucial. Most people, even many very experienced meditators would say, “as soon as you wake up and remember, immediately bring your attention back to your breath.” That is what you’ll read in most books, what you’ll hear in most teacher talks, and it’s what I taught my own students until recently. There is nothing wrong with that approach, but I’ve become aware of a subtle tweak that I believe will help to radically speed up the development of stable concentration.
This primer is about the broadest possible classes of meditation and spiritual experience. It’s a work-in-progress. Every time I come back, I find myself cutting more details, for they seem like technique-specific effects, and not the human universals I once imagined. So it goes. In a couple years there may be nothing here at all.