Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Letter to the Meditator

By Ryanshelton7 @LivingVipassana

Am going to express strictly personal opinions here, publishing an email from Letter to Meditator series when my close friend who had done some Vipassana courses wanted to know what I was upto in meditation. Like today, in 2009, I was unemployed, and had a lot of time at hand to meditate and writing down what I was experiencing then:)

How do you concentrate on the work at hand as you go about work during the day, it is a distraction to keep ‘watching the mind’?

The answer is with time it grows easier. Initially it takes time to cultivate the faculty of remaining mindful through each pain, emotion etc. Remain watchful during meditation one hour each morning, each evening, before you sleep, and as you enter sleep as Goenkaji mentions. I start with being watchful of my breath, as soon as you can get at least 20 breaths of continuous unbroken attention (or less on some days) I move to watching sensations. I try to stay neutral, if I discover pain let it not ‘hurt’ l, if it is pleasing sensation let it not consume me, move further with detached abandonment, keep improving the faculty of remaining aware of the Present. Remain in the split second present to know whats going on at that particular place in the body you have directed your attention to, carefully assess the changing sensation, they are never the same, their state changes in nanoseconds, start noticing as minutely as you can comfortably, you will see like how it happened with me, that with time you are becoming more agile, your noticing is improving, you can go deeper in concentration. Your awareness during the day wont be this subtle, but still you should try to remain aware and maintain equanimity through each emotional physical state. Some meditators (monks mostly) become aware of each rise and fall of the breath, each movement – sitting standing or lying down, aware of each emotional state that occurs, with unbroken attention throughout the day. This concentration propels them into insights.

Remain aware throughout the day, it will energize you.

What is this strength, I dont want it?

 Sometimes we become disappointed.

We think meditation is making me too good for others, let me go out and be cruel and selfish like everyone else, they seem to be getting along fine in their lives!* I think all of us have faced this at some point or other. Well, great! We are moving another step towards setting another thing right. We will keep coming back to this question but lets keep our dignity till then, nothing makes you more dignified, a more nobler person than following the basics of Truth and goodness. Do not trade dignity for humility. Do not get taken for an easy prey of misleading words. These words could come from your own head, when it makes you do unlikely things, or from someone else’s arguments. Meditation, if you understand it clearly, does not let anyone take you lying down, it protects you.

How doest it protect?

We need to act clearly and strongly all the time during our interaction with the world, and meditators are very clear-headed people. Knowing so well the distinction between what is skillful action and what is not, meditators become very capable decision makers, strong and steady. Understand carefully what you are doing and how you are labelling things, watching this process is part of being mindful. A friend mentioned a compromise she made for her boyfriend, we finally agreed she compromised but not for ‘love’ but ‘fear’, be watchful of underlying tendencies and do not act on the unskillful tendencies. Greed, fear, delusion or ignorance, hatred or ill-will  are unskillful tendencies. Wisdom, clarity, loving compassion are skillful tendencies. Being skilful protects you!

As mediators you also become tolerant, that creates a balance, essential for us as everything in this world does not go according to wishes. Look around and see what changes are in your power and go ahead and do them. I know I can not feed every beggar on the street, but I know I can replace each thought of hatred and disgust, make me feel resolved with my reality. You just have to probe deeper than you think. Gravity will help you!

Keep your senses, your judgement sound. Speak clearly and be unafraid. Do not gossip, and do not misuse words, speak each word carefully. Walk out when you know you do not belong, and be tolerant for things beyond your control. Lastly, protect your goodness as if it is the most precious thing in your wardrobe, and you will be protected.

Think what real protection is?

Why take all the fuss of being good, of meditating, of making such dedicated efforts?


I do it because I feel it is a basic need. Basic need to rest somewhere when everything in thing world seems to shift. Yesterday, the feeling of love was so strong that I could forgive a lot of things. You need to do that over and over in regard to some people who have hurt you. To help yourself come out of traps. Each time you replace an embarrassing or sad memory with a more skillful idea, you come stronger. This strength that you gain instance after instance, in split seconds of comfort when you really let go, constitute your merit, makes you worthy, noble. It helps you become free.

Do I have to follow the precepts absolutely, what if I falter?

Well, if somebody does something, which according to an ideal meditator is clearly something one should have not done-it should not hamper him or her from abstaining in the future. The basic precepts are abstaining from killing, lies, intoxicants, sexual misconduct, and stealing. Let nothing make you indulge in any of these, under any compulsion. If you lose your mind and it happens, there is no place for guilt in meditation, no place for self-affliction, no repenting or confessing to others. Know for yourself. (Also, this attitude helps you forgive others more easily, double gain … you are easier on yourself and on others! )Move on with renewed strength and do not judge yourself on the past. Love shall help you. It is only when you place a great value in yourself that you become capable of great efforts. Set it right.

* Some people are doing no good right now but may be enjoying fruits of karma of some good deed in the past, there are times when people seem to suffer for no good reason in their present – they are reaping fruits of bad karma of the past … but lets keep this topic aside for today

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