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?”