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.