Most of the time there’s a voice talking to us in our heads. It’s such a constant presence that we barely notice it’s there, we just responds to whatever it tells us. We feel anxious if it tells us that the interview we’re heading into will go badly, we feel confident if it tells us the date we’re about to go on will go well, and we feel every bit as embarrassed when it reminds of some long past moment as we did when it was happening the first time.
One of the reasons to meditate is to quiet that voice down, so that we can stop our attention from being drawn into the past or pulled into the future, and by doing so, we can fully experience the present.
Unfortunately, this voice doesn’t want to be silenced. In fact it will use anything it can, even the concept of meditation itself, to give us something other than the present to focus on. And as I mentioned earlier, because we’re so used to hearing this voice, we can believe we’re meditating even whilst we’re just listening to its chatter.
The problem, as Alan Watts points out in the video above, is that meditation doesn’t have a purpose and the voice in our heads struggles with the concept of purposeless things. It’s the same voice that tells us we look silly when we dance or that we’re going to make a mistake when we’re improvising during a performance. Dancing and improvisation don’t have a purpose either. We do them for the sake of doing them. Because they’re fun, because we feel inspired to. Because they make us happy.
Dancing isn’t approached with any particular reverence or carefulness, and neither should meditation be. Meditation can’t be practiced for what it will do for you in the future, only for what it is in the present.
Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment. And therefore, if you meditate for an ulterior motive; that is to say to improve your mind, to improve your character, to be more efficient in life, you’ve got your eye on the future and you are not meditating.
Because the future is a concept. It doesn’t exist. As the proverb says: “Tomorrow never comes.” There is no such thing as tomorrow, there never will be. because time is always now. And that’s one of the things we discover when we stop talking to ourselves and stop thinking, we find there is only a present, only an eternal now.