One reason I believe I’ve had trouble connecting with people since committing to my daily meditation practice is the new language I use to think through the world. Instead of rationalizing my way through the choices in my day, I’m feeling my way through them. Instead of seeking entertainment, I’m seeking peace and quiet. Instead of sharing activities that distract me from the challenges of life, I’m embracing those challenges in every moment of the day. These are choices that don’t make sense if you haven’t experienced meditation, so it’s reasonable that conversations with people would feel similar to those between individuals without a shared language.
My challenge is to figure out how to translate my choices into language that they can understand and relate to. The result will be my ability to feel more connected to them. Up to now I’ve been trying to explain why my language changed by explaining meditation, but this doesn’t help. When I explain 2 hours of daily meditation and 10 day silent retreats, it increases the communication gap. A non-meditator can’t relate, and generally finds those topics boring, and rightfully so. Talking about sitting in silence isn’t very interesting.
Instead, the language needs to be more engaging and less antagonistic. If someone asks me why I don’t drink, I can articulate, “Staying sober allows me to feel more connected to the loving relationships in my life.” While the first think that comes into my head might be, “It’s just an escape” or “It’s immoral,” those things just come across a personal attacks. Instead, I need to focus on the personal feeling of the choice.
Instead of talking about the tool of meditation, which most people can’t relate to, I need to focus I the relatable result of my practice. The feelings of peace, love, and health. These are aspects of life and meditation that everyone can relate to.
The final piece is truly believing what I’m saying. For the last year I’ve felt in this limbo space between my pre and post meditation identities. I need to have confidence that I’m on the right path. Yes, things have changed, but they’ve changed for the better. Now I just need to live it. Easier said than done, but these are the right goals for my life. Time to meditate.
One thought on “A New Language”
I wonder if some replies come across as an attack because, on some level, they are an attack. Fairly often, I find myself experiencing negative feelings toward certain aspects of our culture that manifest as condescension. When I think about drinking (or TV, music, etc.) as escapism, I’m actually thinking about myself in the past (sometimes just earlier the same day), not other people – but isn’t this just denial? After all, the current me is the one that’s real, and the past me is an idea that really just serves as a substitution for everyone else. It allows me to entertain these negative feelings toward others by believing that they’re negative feelings toward a no-longer-existing idea. My past self has long been the scapegoat for manifesting harmful behaviors common to many people. The shroud of denial is thin here, once you notice it. This is not Vipassana, and many a guru has warned us of the high risk for meditators to fall into these kinds of egoist thought patterns. What makes it hard is that, although you know to be wary of feelings like this towards others, your mind has these tricks to allow you to indulge in them. The way to beat it is to continuously remain honest and aware, and then you can really feel the negativity when it arises, no matter how your mind tries to trick you into justifying it. (Your mind has a whole arsenal of ways to allow you to be negative while satisfying cognitive ideas of morality. That’s why we meditate, right? So we don’t have to rely solely on our cognition.)
As an aside, but also appropriate for your posts, I think this particular kind of negativity can also contribute, in large part, to the feelings of isolation you’ve been describing. I think you’re on the right track with making your explanations more oriented to the benefit you experience, as long as you’re aware that the goal is to really feel that these are the best explanations – not to keep from offending others, but to bring your own mind closer to peace.
For myself, when I describe the practice, I include something about mindfulness as well. How meditation is just a way of practicing being very aware of my feelings and motivations for every thought and action, which helps me to live skillfully. You can give the example of acting out of anger to harm someone else, which anyone can relate to, and explain how this is just the tip of the iceberg of things you begin to understand and become liberated from. When I become more aware of what really goes on inside me at each moment, I really start to experience more compassion as a learned behavior. When I try and escape the reality of this moment, through drink or entertainment or whatever else, my mind necessarily becomes dull and I have more difficulty acting skillfully and feeling compassion. It’s not that the things I used to enjoy have become less enjoyable, but that I’ve found – and continue to find – something better. I find that most people get that, at least superficially. If they’re not ready to see the wisdom in it, there’s little you can do besides plant the seed.