The Secret of Continuity

            We’ve all heard it. Continuity is the secret of success. It’s Goenka’s favorite, but it’s not a secret. He straight up tells us, again and again. Continuity is success. We are successful through the continuity of practice. It’s obvious when you practice. So why say it’s a secret? I think I know the secret to that, and here it is.

             Meditation is a paradox, in a sense. We do the practice so that we can forget about it. A minimum requirement after taking a Vipassana course is to meditate for an hour each morning and evening, but we don’t leave it there. The aim is to be with the sensations and awareness of breath and body at every point in the day. At every moment, no matter what position you find yourself in. Be it sitting, standing, walking or lying down, be aware. So we practice morning and evening so that we may condition ourselves, or un-condition ourselves, to always be aware. To be fully aware, you have to forget about being it, or else you’ll simply be aware of being aware, which is not true awareness.

              Is that a secret? I would rather call it a hoax, or a riddle.

              Have you ever read the book or seen the movie, The Hobbit? In the story, Bilbo Baggins gets in a game of riddles with the ‘very attached and un-equanimous’ Gollum. During the game, Bilbo accidentally asks, “What’s in my pocket?” as he feels the ring in his vest. Gollum, taking it as Bilbo’s next riddle, gets upset. He shouts, “It’s not fair! It’s not fair!” Bilbo, realizing what he’s done, goes along with it. From then on, he keeps the ring a secret. He uses it as a trick to save himself and his friends from a lot of sticky situations.

             In meditation, we hoax ourselves into knowing a new way of living, so that we can eventually live it without thinking about it. Instead of telling us the truth, we have to trick ourselves. It’s like when someone goes to find a spiritual master or guru. They go to this person and expect them to give them answers, and the guru gives them a funny look. He knows that this person is already enlightened, playing that he’s not, and that they now have a silly task to do.

            In a Hobbit sense, the guru’s question is, “What’s in your pocket?” On posing this, he’ll precede to pick-pocket you and give you what was already in your pocket. You don’t believe that it’s for you, so he begins to convince you through all sorts of gimmicks that it is, so you’ll take it. Eventually, taking what was ultimately yours to begin with. The guru’s task is to riddle this person who came to them with all sorts of tricks so that they eventually convince them that they are already enlightened. Essentially, after enough tricks, they give up trying to be, so they are.

            After all, we’re already breathing. We have nothing to do, so why meditate?

            In Vipassana, you are your own master. We are our own gurus and our own tricksters. Nobody can trick you better than yourself, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, observing not even two breaths and your mind is gone, off like a monkey, grabbing thoughts. Now it’s a pretty good trick to be unaware, which comes natural to most of us, but if you’re smart, you’ll trick yourself in another way. You’ll be a trickster into awareness. You’ll meditate.

            “What’s in my pocket?”

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About Ryan Shelton

While I'm currently married to a beautiful woman while teaching physics at Padua Academy, these descriptors fail to capture the totality of my adventurous life. I have hiked over 1700 miles, traveled to 5 continents, managed a bakery, started a meditation center, counseled troubled teens, attended Duke, UNC, and Harvard, protected forests as a wildland firefighter, volunteered thousands of hours with Americorps, rafted the Grand Canyon, SCUBA dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and continues to find new adventures. I hope my writing encourages you to pursue your dreams and be the best version of yourself while supporting your communities to work together to solve the current challenges in our world.

2 thoughts on “The Secret of Continuity

  1. Hey, this was nice. I don’t know much about Vipassana. I was wondering if you could elaborate on what is meant by the use of the word ‘continuity’. At first I thought, “Hmm, I guess if I have a bunch of children I could call myself successful. Then I thought, “Maybe its about consistency of my self or internal thoughts”. The reference to Hobbit derailed me because now I started thinking, “it must mean success in the way the Jackson LOTR trilogy was successful; because it was an incredible continuity.” Now I think its probably more to do with the ‘wholeness’ of one’s inner life with his physical surroundings and the rest of the universe.

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  2. You can find more information about what Vipassana is here. This is the only site I’ve been to. Regardless if you go to this one or a different site, the technique is the same, and it will tell you everything that you need to know about it before going to a course.
    http://www.surabhi.dhamma.org/

    As for your ‘have a bunch of children and be successful’ thought, I could ask you, what’s the end game to that? Will you ever stop having children if that’s what you think success is? Everyone’s got their thoughts on what will make them happy and successful… New car. New wife. New house. New child, like you said. It is better just to watch the thoughts about these things objectively then to react to them and actually carry out what you might have not ‘thought through’ all the way. Whatever you’re paying attention to, pay attention to THAT, and continue to watch it, wherever it goes, and just watch it without condemning it or wanting more of it. Watch it objectively.

    Vipassana teaches an awareness of body sensations and breath, so that what you’re watching – what your attention is on, is something pure and present with you at every moment. It helps so that you don’t get wrapped up in layers of thoughts about thoughts about thoughts, because those can be messy.

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