Math was never my strength but I realized fairly early on studying meditation that getting to the core of things was a matter of subtraction. Every time I would try to figure things out with the intellect, I only added another layer of pseudo realization. Every time I thought “I got it”, I lost it.
The mind always wanted to add its two cents.
Every time I found a new teaching, a new teacher, a new meditation, I would think, “This is it!” But it wasn’t it.
Every time I would have a deeper experience in meditation, the mind would grab hold of it and tell me all about it. How expansive it was, how subtle, how freeing. But it wasn’t any of that. It was the experience itself, not what the mind added to it.
Eventually I saw the pattern. I would strive and strive. Then, when I finally gave up, I would come upon something uncontrived.
In the end I have come to realize that it is fruitless to reify any experience. The moment I do, it is already gone. I found that the only way to be free is to be free from wanting that experience to stay. That has led me to not wish for any particular experience to come in the first place. I found that the steps between where I was and where I wanted to go, were wholly self-imposed.
It is the notion of striving for something to attain that is the main obstacle. Instead of striving to get somewhere I now simply direct my mind to look at my mind. Yet, I look like there is nothing to find. The looking is enough.
Same with the heart practice; I look at the heart and the heart stirs on its own. One time I was trying to force my way into compassion. I was trying to do a particular heart opening practice and a fly kept interrupting me and I began swatting at the fly as I wished for all beings to be happy! Crazy mind. The mind was so set on doing a specific practice, to achieve something, that it forgot the purpose of the whole thing!
The balancing act here is to realize the we do need effort. We need seeking, we need to absorb the teachings, we need meditation techniques, and we need to get to the cushion. And we also need the wisdom to trust when we don’t need them anymore. It is like leaving a stoplight in a car. At first it takes effort for the vehicle to get up to to speed. Once the car is at speed we need very little to keep it going. The vehicle is running off of momentum at that point. Our meditations are like that. The effort to get to the cushion, and to do the technique gets us to the point where we can release the striving; we can rest and just be.
We have to trust that we already are what we are seeking. I think it is the one thing we miss. We miss the part where we let go of the striving, let go of the technique, let go of what we think we know. The more we let be, the more vivid the meditation becomes. Let the mind settle in its natural state, all you need to do is not fiddle with it along the way.