Lightning Strikes

Not easy to dispute the words of a man brandishing a mustache of that caliber..


In Navy SEAL training, instructors coined the phrase “embrace the suck” – meaning to embrace the often miserable conditions that SEALs find themselves conducting special ops in all manner of harsh and stressful environments. They must learn to adapt and become comfortable with the uncomfortable, to accept the unacceptable and find a way through no matter the circumstances.

As meditators we cultivate a similar skill, which can be a helpful analogy if you want to think of it as a sort of battle that you must learn to embrace. Fortunately, we do not have to crawl under barbwire in Cambodian swampland (or whatever it is that Stallone does in Rambo), although the mental anguish of meditation can sometimes make that seem like a desirable alternative.

The world of distraction is easy. To get lost in a thousand and one desires and activities is easy. To sit with your own boredom, your own inescapable pointlessness… that is the suck. And yet, this is the challenge we accept on the road to freedom and divinity:

Boredom simply shows that you are becoming aware of the futility of life, its constant repetitive wheel. You have done all those things before — nothing happens. You have been into all those trips before — nothing comes out of it. Boredom is the first indication that a great understanding is arising in you about the futility, meaninglessness, of life and its ways.

The whole effort in meditation is this: be bored but don’t escape from it; and keep alert, because if you fall asleep you have escaped. Keep alert! Watch it, witness it. If it is there, then it is there. It has to be looked into, to the very core of it.

If you go on looking into boredom without escaping the explosion comes. One day, suddenly, looking deep into boredom, you penetrate your own nothingness.

And the whole training of meditation is such that it helps boredom. In a Zen monastery you have to get up every day at the same time in the morning — every day, year in, year out. It doesn’t matter whether it is summer or winter. You have to get up early, three o’clock, you have to take the bath, you have to drink the same tea, and you have to sit…. The same gestures followed again and again.

Everything helps boredom.

It is all well managed. The boredom has to be created — immensely, tremendously. The boredom has to be allowed as totally as possible, has to be helped, supported from every side. The same evening, the same work, the same chanting of the mantra. The same time you have to go to sleep again… and this goes on, this wheel. Within a few days you are utterly bored and you cannot escape. There is no way to escape. You can’t go to the movie, you can’t look at the TV; you can’t have anything that can help you to avoid it. You are thrown into it again and again.

Great courage is needed to face it. It is almost like death; in fact, far more hard than death, because death comes when you become unconscious. And you are stirring ALL sorts of boredoms. What happens?

There is the secret of all meditations: if you go on watching, watching, watching, boredom becomes bigger and bigger, intenser and intenser, and then the peak… nothing can go on for ever. There is a point from where the wheel turns.

If you can go to the very extreme, to the very peak, then the change, transformation, enlightenment, satori, or whatever you want to call it, happens. Then one day, suddenly, the boredom becomes too much. You are suffocated, you are almost being killed by it. You are surrounded by an ocean of boredom. You are overflooded by it and there seems to be no way to escape. The very intensity and totality of it, and the wheel turns. Suddenly boredom disappears and there is satori, samadhi. You have entered your nothingness.

Now there will be no boredom any more. You have seen the very nothingness of life. You have disappeared — who can be bored? with what? You exist no more. You are annihilated.

A brutal and seemingly impossible task, yet perfectly lining up with the neuroscience I’ve presented, as well as the wise words of the original master 2500 years ago:

1 thought on “Lightning Strikes”

  1. Jeff..I totally understand what u r saying. Although I have not experienced this intensity I can imagine this in my mind. Your style of writing sucks me right into deeply thinking about this. U r a fabulous writer and thinker. Thank u for being u.


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