Confusion and Meditation

by Willem Scuitemaker

by Willem Scuitemaker


Confusion is a very repeatable and natural outcome in examining life and it is now being documented at large, not just by monastics.

The last few years meditation has emerged from the fringe and received a fair bit of attention in the public press. This is primarily due to numerous studies that show it reduces stress, anxiety and blood pressure therefore increasing the immune system, fertility and emotional stability. Nothing in my years would make me doubt any of this.

In recent months there has been a bit of a backlash developing in the press, which I frankly find humorous. In good western style many people came to meditation looking for a quick fix. Likewise, as good westerners they over achieved.

The truth is there are many techniques to initiate you into meditation … follow the breathe, count the breathe, label thoughts, etc. … and with a little effort they all work fairly quickly. You are so relieved to get a break from the daily grind and the energetic kick combines to make it a habit.

With continued sitting, mindfulness, contemplation, stilling the mind … whatever term you were introduced to … sooner or later you will have an actual insight! If the first one doesn’t scare the bejeebers out of you or leave you confused, sooner or later one will. This is where the spate of recent articles are coming from.*

Confusion is the common outcome, post insight, because you are simply not able to look at the underlying fear. Insights raise fear because they are not a product of the thinking mind and at the same time ring true. They upset the very foundation you have built upon and every alarm bell you have goes off.  In the end it is better to be confused than, heaven forbid, admit you were wrong and face the change implied.

Whether you meditate or not you are always examining your life to one extent or another. Being introspective or self-aware is how we define what separates human from animal. I propose to you that your confusion regarding life’s direction has the same roots.

What are you confused about?  What are the underlying fears?

If you want to look at this, you can of course take up meditation until it surfaces or find a place where it is quiet, you won’t be interrupted and you feel very physically safe. Then start the conversation with your-self about your deepest fears. You will be surprised how much of your life has been defined by just one deeply rooted fear.

Because I know this is scary terrain, let me attempt to soften the ground a bit. None of them are real, they are all empty suits.  I have witnessed hundreds if not thousands of fears expressed. The vast majority are not even logically relevant. They may have been relevant when you were four or fifteen or thirty-two, but you are not four or fifteen or thirty-two anymore.

May your life go well

*The basic yoga instructor and the ‘it’s all bliss and light’ new agers that introduce meditation typically have no experience to speak from and compound the problem by doubling down on their shtick at this point. This is a very difficult juncture in the process, when one realizes they need guidance and peers.

30 Blows

30 blowspic

In Zen we have a koan – an enigma wrapped in a riddle* – ‘Answer yes, 30 blows; Answer no, 30 blows’. This koan in particular points to one of, if not the hardest paradox of being a human being.


The longer you live the more clearly you see the effects of randomness at work. Now you can argue about the word random and call it God’s plan, karma, fate or any other thing. What they all have at the root is not-knowing, there are thing you just cannot know.

Each choice in our life leaves the other path unknown and no matter how clever we think we are, we do not know where either path leads.

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea about my monk-ness and invoking of various theological words and ideas, this reminds me of a whorehouse joke.

Seems there was this poor farm family and on the sons 16th birthday the father walked him a few miles toward the big city to the local whorehouse. He told his son this was the last lesson he could give him, paid the madam and wished him well in life. Sitting on the steps after he had finished his business, with no clue where to go, the madam felt sorry for him and said: you know I need an accountant are you good with numbers? Hanging his head he informed her he could neither read nor write or do numbers and she pointed him in the direction of the big city and shoo’d him away.

On the way he came across an apple tree and not knowing when he would eat again, he filled his pack. Long story short, he sold those apples in the city and 30 years later was a wealthy man and the largest fruit distributor in Gotham. Being interviewed about his life story and success, a reporter says to him: Just imagine what you could have accomplished if only you had been taught to read and write. He quickly responded, why yes, I’d be an accountant in a whorehouse.

The point is, you can only work with what you have, where you are at and neither of those things limits what you can become.

Each junction in your life will lead to outcomes you deem positive and negative. There is no path in which this is not true. Too many of us beat ourselves up for the decision we didn’t make or the breaks we didn’t get, this is a trap. We are all right where we need to be at this moment and cancer, divorce or loss can be just as good of resource as a big stack of money to move forward on our path.

So pick an apple from your tree of life today and have a great journey.

May your life go well

*A koan is not solved by the rational mind. Therefore, people in the zen business object to the word riddle. Likewise, it is ‘seen’ by the student, hopefully, so it is not an enigma – mystery – either. The definition I give here is appropriate for the audience. If you want to know more; google koan and ‘public case’.


The Seeker


They call me ‘The Seeker’
I’ve been searching low and high
I won’t get to get what I’m after
Till the day I die

I am sure you know, this is the opening verse of a 60s anthem by The Who. I should really just post the rest of the lyrics and shut up; they nailed this aspect of self.

We are all seekers; it is a core part of being human. We seek the perfect relationships, lover, job, house, car, city, school … right down to, in my case, the best fish taco. Of course I cannot leave out the ever illusive happiness. We ponder, cogitate, worry and go to great lengths to seek these things out. “I’ve been searching low and high”

It is important to notice, this aspect of self is ‘the seeker’ we do not identify with it as ‘the finder’ for a reason. It is not your seekers job to find things. To top it off, when you do find something, how long is it before the seeker has you looking for the next thing. How much better that will be! What are the things you are perpetually seeking?

Having a well-honed seeker is not a bad thing; it only becomes a problem when you let it have the leading role for too long. There is a time for the seeker to do its job for you and then there is a time for it to retire to the dressing room. “I [the self] won’t get to get what I’m after, until the day I [the seeker] die”

We are all seeking for the way to be happy or at least content. If I was clear at all above; it follows that as long as you are seeking ‘the way’ you will never find it. Sure you may find a better way or even a series of better ways, but in time they will all fade.

The solution is to stop seeking and do the work of being the way. Be in a relationship, be in a job, be in school … stop dreaming of how it could be better and see how good what you have can be.

This doesn’t mean things do not have ends an there are new beginnings. I am just saying give the world a chance to show you that you are in the right place, with the right resources, including the lessons you need to face or learn, to live out the life you want to live.

May your life go well


The Quitter


Quitters never prosper is something we all heard a thousand times growing up. It circulates daily on motivational posts propagated on Facebook. It is part of a worldview that many people have accepted and is simply not true.

The largest corporations in the tech world were founded by quitters, Microsoft, Apple, Dell … just to name a few. Jerry Seinfeld was lauded for going out at the top and started a trend in successful sitcoms.

What did Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs and Jerry Seinfeld have in common? They had mature Quitters. They did not quit for pedantic reasons or because they were angry or because they were afraid of the unknown; they quit because they did not see their actions serving the things they wished to do.

What are the paths you have started down that are no longer serving you? What is it that you are afraid to face if you quit? What is it costing you to keep those activities on life support?

As an exercise, grab a pen and find a quiet place where you won’t be overly distracted or interrupted and identify as just that aspect of you that can quit. If this makes no sense to you, say to yourself, or write it at the top of the paper, ‘I am the Quitter, these are the truths of the Quitter and not the truths of Pete, Bill, Mary …’ now jot down what comes up from the questions above.

Just ignore the ‘yeh buts’, this is just the ‘whole’ trying to jump in, which is its nature. Just return to the sole aspect of the Quitter and let it speak its truth.

Repeat this exercise a few times to get past the large and obvious. Having clear insight into what is brewing under the surface will diffuse amazing amounts of frustration and confusion.

This is just a first step; further clarification of what you really want will lead to solutions and actions. Pete, Bob and Mary would not be where they are today if they were not capable of being good problem solvers given clear data.

May your life go well