I think that one of the most helpful things in my practice was having to be in a lot of situations in which I wasn’t at all interested or engaged. I had to learn to be open to them.
When I was in Thailand, at the beginning of my monastic life, I had to go to ceremonies. I didn’t know what the ceremonies were about. I didn’t know the people. I didn’t understand the language and I didn’t know the chanting. Everything was very uncertain, and I just had to sit. I could feel a tremendous irritation because I felt I was wasting my time. I could be doing something important, something necessary, something that would be meaningful, useful, interesting or significant. I could be working out problems or meditating or doing something helpful, instead of sitting around and being another brown robe in the line.
But actually, in the long run, it was very helpful because I could only carry on complaining inwardly for so long until I got the point that there was something there to work with. I would then realize, ‘Well, I think this is trying to tell me something.’
In meditation there isn’t anything to observe in particular, except the residual wanting to have, wanting to grasp, wanting to get – that feeling of selfhood. As our meditation develops, we call it ‘meditation without an object’ because we are not concentrating on any particular thing. There is the sensitivity to feel out what is balance, what is peacefulness, what is attention. And when we’re leaning into something, hanging on to, avoiding or looking for something, then we recognize those feelings.
When they come up, we can see that it’s time to be more attentive and patient; it’s time to learn something. There’s something to be learned in all these experiences that we think are of no use and no point. There’s also something to be learned from our lifelong tendency to try to dismiss certain kinds of experiences…
Who wants to know what hunger feels like? Who wants to know what feeling tired feels like? Who wants to be with that? Most people just want to stuff their face and crash out: ‘I don’t want to know what feeling hungry and feeling tired feel like! What’s the point in that? I don’t want to hang around and wait for a bus or wait for things. It’s pointless! Get on with it and get it done quickly!’
That’s the everyday brutalization. When there’s nothing to get out of an experience, a person or a situation, then most of the time we want to go to something else – something out of which we can get a sense of success, confidence or inspiration.
This reflection by Ajahn Sucitto is from the book, The Most Precious Gift, (pdf) pp. 64-65.