Letting Go Of “Success” On The Meditative Path


Under any disciplined meditation practice, it is never too long before one begins to become aware of new sensations, attitudes, perspectives – and even new insights into the self and reality.

Often, especially with something as foreign as meditation, we tend to overestimate these achievements; we may even find ourselves seeking to re-visit these particular experiences the next time we sit on the cushion. But this clinging, like all clinging, can only hinder one’s spiritual progress.

The first time we get a new feeling we may think to ourselves, “Aha, this is what meditation is! I’ve done it. I’ve meditated!” But this is not completely so. Because successful meditation cannot result from sensual desire – which is one of the Five Hindrances in the Buddhist tradition – so, by clinging to even our meditative experiences we are doing ourselves a tremendous disservice to our own physical and mental well-being.

Meditation cannot be learned as if it is a particular experience, sensation, or even a particular state of concentration or trance. Rather, it can only be approached as a way of experiencing stimuli – with mindfulness, concentration and equanimity.

The experiences that result from meditation come in all different flavors and intensities, and it would be wrong to deprive one’s self of exploring these potentials. This is why I find it most intriguing when others say that meditation is boring or dull; with proper mindfulness, concentration and equanimity, even the most seemingly mundane sensations can transform into rich and enlightening experiences. What do I mean by this? You will have to explore that “mundane” world of sense and thought for your self – no one can possibly share these qualitative aspects of experience and do them any justice.

But this article is about letting go of success. In other words, letting go of the identity between the “I” and “success.”

And success, in this context, cannot be seen as anything more than another means of feeding the ego, the self, the “I.” A no-no when meditating or on any kind of spiritual path.

• “I succeeded in meditating.”

• “I have achieved this experience.”

But no, none of this is true. Instead, take the “I” out of the thought. And instead, believe: there was success in meditation, or, there was an experience.

By taking the “I” out of thought, one acknowledges that they were powerless in creating the experience. The observer didn’t make something happen, they allowed an experience to happen – by being mindful of their sensations, by perceiving those sensations with clarity and concentration, and by being non-reactive and passive to the emotional content of the experience. The observer let go of desire and force. They allowed the experience to unfold like a good book or movie, unaware of what the ending might bring.

This may be a helpful attitude for approaching any experience, not just ones that are a result of meditation, but also the ones in everyday life. Let go. Let go of the things we try so hard to overpower and control. Let the universe just play itself out – for one moment, and be as clear and focused on all the facets in which that one moment may reveal. We may find this gentle way of acceptance actually reaps more benefits then the moments we try so hard to push and pull to our liking.

Just be,
Bewildered, curious, and naïve.
Look around,
Don’t seek those things you’ve grown so tired of seeking.
They are here.
And have been,
For eternity.

Just look.
Do you see them?
They hide in the places you least suspect,
And reveal themselves only in the stillness of mind.

Like that of a newborn,
Let there be no sense of self,
With pure consciousness,
Let the only question be:
What is there to learn?

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