Discover Your True Self

Summary: Why do I want to practice meditation? What is the purpose of my practice? Sathi answers these questions while telling the story of a friend who is puzzled by why she responds differently with clients and her spouse, family, and inconsiderate drivers.

Along the way Sathi explored several ideas:

  1. What is the best meditation technique?
  2. Learning something (outside knowledge) vs. understanding who you are (inside wisdom)
  3. Meditation as a way to reshape yourself based on your true self.
  4. When is the best time to meditate? (When your mind tells you “Now is not a good time.”)
  5. Dealing with the racing mind.

[Sathi] Are there any questions or suggestions for teaching today?

[Meditator] I read someone who says he does his meditations in sets. That was the first time I ever heard that. The first was breathing, vipassana. The second was Metta. I thought that was really an interesting idea.

[Sathi] Yes, I have heard some people who have made comments like that. And also, some people talk about meditation like that. I think we need to understand the intention and background of such a thought.

If we really come back to ourselves, asking, “Why do I want to practice meditation?” Or, “What is the purpose of my practice?”

Most people who have a preferred background in meditation would say, “I want to train my mind. I want to achieve peacefulness. I want to reshape my mind. Cultivate my mind.”

Those are some of the answers someone would give, with the preferred background.

There are some people who just even see meditation as something that is outside of themselves. When you talk about the academic way of life, chemistry is not you. It is knowledge. Geography is not you, it is knowledge. Even biology, learning biology is knowledge. Somebody might apply those things into their life. But, that is something else.

That is our background and our training we have had since childhood. When [the concept] of meditation comes we are trying to apply meditation in the same way. Rather than letting us reshape ourselves, we are imagining reshaping ourselves. Rather than becoming somebody, we are pretending we have become somebody.

Let me bring you an example. I just recently heard from a therapist. A very good person. This therapist was genuinely telling me, “Bhante, when I’m working with my clients, I can listen to them. I’m just being there. I have trained myself not to judge my clients based on what they are saying. I can remain who I am from the beginning to the end of the session. Then I can help that client.”

The question was, “How come I cannot be that same person with my husband?” [meditators laughing knowingly] “When my husband says something it triggers my emotions. Either I’m getting angry faster or frustrated faster. It is the same thing with my kids and family.”

This person was telling me, “Even not just them, I’m bad driving on the road. I cannot tolerate other people’s wrong-doing or mistakes. I react. What is behind it?”

I asked this friend, “Your true self. What is your true self? As you are acting as a therapist or while you are being outside [your therapy office]?”

She thought for a little bit and then she said, “Bhante, I think my true self is outside of my therapy chair.”

We have trained ourselves to pretend we are somebody else. That is what we have done with our traditional world.

When you come to meditation, it helps you reshape your true self. Not pretending as a meditator.

Often people ask me, “What does a meditator do? What do monks do? What do those in the monastic life do?”

It is the reshaping of your way of life. You are not pretending as somebody one place and then going to another place as a different person. You are carrying your own mind, your own self. You are reacting and responding. You are peacefulness is not really something that you carry as jewelry. Only keeping your peacefulness in one place, and at other times you don’t have it. You forget to bring your “peacefulness” gem with you. [laughing]

That is what we call pretending. A meditator is not a pretender. In order to become that true person, you have to be authentic and come into your base. To recognize your base and then to reshape yourself from your base.

Understanding and being with your base is what we call mindfulness.

For the true meditator, all those different techniques are just only words. But, for the pretender, those different techniques are really different units of meditation. Therefore, what we are supposed to do, it doesn’t matter whatever technique we are using for our practice, use that technique to get into your base. Then, cultivate yourself from that base. Cultivate you [from your] authentic self.

The meditator does not run away from anger or frustration. They [also] don’t grab the calmness or love, or all those good qualities. The meditator is openly observing all of those things.

In other words, we are learning how to be friendly with our anger. We are learning how to be friendly with our frustration. Jealousy. What happens when you become friendly with those things? They cannot harm you anymore. Because you know them very well. When those things are there you can say, “Okay, I know you friend. And since I know you, you can’t harm me anymore. Because, since I know you, I don’t let you win.”

The meditator does not run away from any negativity. [The meditator also ] does not run into positivity. You become a positive person, but you don’t lose yourself for negativity. That is the skill we are cultivating as a meditator.

Therefore, that kind of meditation practice, which we call insight meditation, you are practicing changing your inner self or updating your inner self. For that, it doesn’t matter which practice you are doing.

The technique is only important from the beginning of the meditation. Afterward, it’s not. If you keep changing your technique it means you are remaining as a beginner. It sounds beautiful because we like the buffet. But the truth is, whatever goes past your throat, doesn’t matter. As long as it is before [passing] your throat, it matters. Color matters. Taste matters. And, what you eat matters. Everything matters before [it reaches] your throat. It doesn’t matter after [passing] your throat. For the meditator, those are just labels.

Hope I answered your question. Any other thoughts?

[Meditator] There’s so many podcasts and books and you name it about mindfulness and meditation and it is easy to get lost in this.

[Sathi] Exactly. I really feel sorry for many people because these days, a lot of people who don’t know about meditation, who don’t have the art or feel of meditation, they become teachers too. And then, a lot commercialized ways… Now, when somebody really wants to start meditation, where do they go? They are accessing those things. They are touching the wrong thing, the wrong method. They are misleading themselves.

There is nothing we can do. But, if somebody, who is wise, would find the right way to get into meditation. One of the basic things of meditation is, that the practice should not be a burden. It goes with you. Can you do that without that personal touch? That personal connection?

If somebody teaches meditation, and who doesn’t have the feel of meditation. Just think about it, if somebody is teaching you how to manage anger and they are angry. If you can’t help your own self, how can you teach somebody else? If somebody doesn’t have a mindful life or mindful responses, what is the value of that person teaching mindfulness?

But, living and pretending are two different things. I believe for my therapist friend, is a very good example from their own observation. On the chair, during the session, she can do her job. [She] is a great helper. But, outside [the office] she is not.

Imagine, if she can be the same person outside, how different she can be inside her therapy office? That’s what we need to do. Not pretend as a meditator. Be a meditator. Be a mindful person.

The best time to practice mindfulness and meditation is the time you cannot practice meditation. If you think, “Now I am tired. Now I am frustrated. I don’t have a good mind to practice meditation.” That’s the time you need to practice meditation. That is the best time. That is a good challenge.

Bad timing is the best time.

[laughingly] Nobody has to do meditation because we are good. We have a peaceful mind!

[Meditator] More than once in the last couple weeks I’ve sat down and my mind is racing so many different directions. I just gave up and just sat there and tried to be more relaxed.

[Sathi] Yeah, just sit there. See how your mind is racing. Then, you will be really surprised how capable your mind is, coming back to you. “Your mind is racing” means your mind is racing away from you. By providing a settling environment, you are allowing your mind to come back to yourself.

Remember, anybody else can give up on you. But, if you give up on yourself, you cannot.

[Meditator] I think that relates to the expectation we set for ourselves that we need to have this perfect meditation.

[Sathi] Yeah. That’s one of them. The most important thing for a meditator is the commitment. “Okay, it is meditation time. It doesn’t matter if my mind is racing, that’s okay. Just sit down.”

I find myself feeling very tired, and then my mind brings up a lot of excuses. “You’ve had a long day today.” [laughing] Then I say, “Let’s have a mini-meditation today.” You start with that. Then you find, “Oh, amazing. My mind is calm now. I can continue this.”

I find the same thing happens with my workouts. Sometimes, “Oh, I’ve done a lot of things today. I should take a break.” How about just walking for five minutes. Then, a five-minute walk leads you to “Okay, let’s run for five minutes.” Then, another five more minutes. Finally, you end up running for half an hour. Yes?

Okay, I think for today we can stop here. Good to see all of you.

Recorded on February 16, 2020, at the Meditation Center in Chaska, Minnesota.

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