Why Meditation Sucks

Odysseus tied to the mast

You can only stop the flow of thoughts by refusing to have any interest in it.

-Ramana Maharshi

The mind is accustomed to running all over the place, chasing down whatever familiar mental loops we have stored away. Something about that job, our partner, our family, those idiot republicans or democrats, etc. And it is very easy to go down these roads, second nature really for most.

So, to sit quietly and bear witness to this process and refuse to have any interest in it for a change, as Ramana puts it, can feel pretty shitty (the vocabulary well isn’t brimming over with fresh adjectives today). This habitual tendency of indulging thought is so strong that it feels damn near impossible to stop it. The ego whines and cries when you start refusing to feed it like usual, and breaks you down until you give in again.. not unlike a drug addict. Somewhat paradoxically, the “pain” of meditation, of not feeding the ego, needs to be seen as a positive.

When Odysseus had to sail past the beautiful Sirens, he made his men tie him to the mast so that he would not break free and chase after them and ruin the whole voyage (as pictured above). Similarly, this degree of effort will likely be needed at points during meditation. The pull of certain desires, distractions, fears, etc. will be so strong that you need to just grit your teeth and outright refuse to go for the ride.

While physical restraints like Ulysses had will probably not be necessary, the mental restraint is a certainty. At first you won’t be able to catch yourself and bring the attention back, you’ll keep falling down the rabbit holes of whatever tempting thought pattern that happens to present itself.

With some persistence, however, our refusal to take interest in the runaway train of the mind that has wreaked so much havoc in ourselves and the world will be slowed down. It cannot be otherwise. The mind has to have a willing participant to play this game with, and if we are simply detached, allowing the mind to kick and scream all it wants, the ego/DMN begins to subside. The mind rewires itself, returning to that natural empty peace we once had before all the struggles began.

With unrelaxed nerves, with morning vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mast like Ulysses. If the engine whistles, let it whistle till it is hoarse for its pains. If the bell rings, why should we run? We will consider what kind of music they are like.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s