Note: This was originally written for my Meditate or Die Insiders newsletter. You can sign up for it here.
Welcome to this week’s Meditate or Die Insiders newsletter.
And happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends—I hope you all had a wonderful time with your family.
The week for me has been one of technology madness with a final “win.” Although I’ve had a hell of a time getting the tech stack sorted for the community, my website should now be even faster to load for you.
So we are getting there, and I will have some announcements soon about where I want to take the community, how I will do that, and what that all means for you.
I’ve also been toying with the idea of offering monthly meditation retreats via Zoom. These retreats would either come as part of the Meditate or Die Insiders membership. Or, if people want, they could pay for retreat days on a per retreat basis.
Let me know what you think of this idea by hitting reply.
Now on to this week’s email:
In the article on self-transformation called, How to Bend Like a Piece of Wood, I tell the story about my first few weeks after joining the monastery back in the day.
And I end the piece by pointing out the reasons for the three-week-long lesson delivered to me with such care and patience that it has remained a cherished memory of my Tibetan teacher to this day.
“Now you may be thinking, why not just explain the importance of self-compassion and meditation in the process of personal transformation? Why not just use simple, clear, and direct language to explain why these are key tools in this process? Why did the Lama instead choose to go through a three-week word game? There are real reasons for this but, there are two things I’ve noticed over the years being around such lamas. Firstly, they can be extremely patient when teaching, and they need to be.”
The reason for the patience is the pedagogical truth: it’s hard to effect change. Indeed, to change is difficult for the simple fact that we are the ones creating the mess.
We need, therefore, to be as patient with ourselves as the lamas can be.
In the same article, I go on to say:
“There is a Tibetan saying: it’s easy to see the flee on another’s back; hard to see the elephant on your own. Couple this with the fact that genuine transformation does not come from adopting a different set of beliefs, and we can see why patience is needed. I will go into more detail in the following sections as to why this is important but for now, I will say this, we are working against deeply ingrained tendencies to believe that what we see and think reflects a reality outside of ourselves.”
Not only do we need patience, but we must take care of ourselves as a parent would a sick child, again from this article:
“…our lived experience unexamined sets up a paradigm that makes self-transformation a difficult task indeed.”
That is to say, our lived experience is that there is a world “out there,” and we are indeed self-supporting-egos making our own way through it wholly independent from each other. Yet, upon examination, this does not seem to be the case.
I call this cognitive blindness. And it is this blindness to who we are in truth that binds us to how things are, now, for us.
So ask yourself this: how are things, now, for you.
Are you at peace? Happy? Blissful? Wise? Do you feel relaxed, connected, and full? Or do you feel like something is missing?
If you’re honest with yourself and look closely enough, you’ll see things are not quite right in the land of Oz. This is so, for the very reason that cognitive blindness sets up an addiction to self reinforced through the activities of modernity.
From how children are schooled or how advertising works, to how social-media platforms leverage our vulnerabilities, we are constantly told we are not enough.
Indeed, social media platforms are a great example of how the process of the ego works. Starting from a distortion of the truth that sets up a lived experience that is, by nature, unsatisfying, we believe this distorted view to be a true reflection of reality.
This then feeds the ego as we fumble through life, desperately trying to change what is being reflected back.
But this only increases the focus on the self, feeding the ego, so we become addicted to the struggle of change itself. But the more obsessed we are with the self, the more the mess we create.
This is the self-sustaining nightmarish closed-loop Buddhists call Samsara.
So the question then becomes: is there something, anything, we can do about this mess?
Again, from the article about self-transformation:
“However, by taking the time to deliver the message that compassion and meditation are the tools of transformation in such a way that it allows this information to be assimilated through a process of self-discovery, not information retention, one discovers this truth for oneself, and in one’s own lived experience. Allowing for the possibility of self-transformation in this very process.”
This is why it is vital to learn how to look closely, with fine-tuned precision, at the cognitive process of the self-created madness of the ego.
No one can give this knowledge to us. No one can transfer this wisdom. All that can be done is to show us the way out. It is then up to each one of us to walk that path.
Until next week.
Meditate or Die!
Photo by Alessandro Zambon