Keep Talking

Lately I’ve been more aware of when I speak, why I speak and how I speak. Communication is such a valuable tool, yet to discuss meditation and direct experience is sometimes so difficult.

We essentially read left to right. When you see the saying, “I love you,” you don’t know what is being loved until the word you appears. In the same way we don’t know what the I is doing until the word love appears. So language works backwards. That is how we understand it. During meditation and music, there is no real way of discussing what it is while it’s occurring. There is no means to an end. No real final result is clear. We just work our way through it and when it comes to different points we can gather all of the pieces and make something tangible out of it. In life, we call these epiphanies and revelations. These are the points where we can reflect on the processing and process it. It’s where we can gather it all together and make some sense of it. In music, it may be the end of a song when it all clicks for us. In writing, the end of the sentence or blog post.

I was listening to the song Keep Talking by Pink Floyd and the words reflected to me certain difficulties that I’ve faced since I started my practice of Vipassana.

“There’s a silence around me”

Sometimes when we are not in a true state of stillness we can use ‘staying with sensation’ as a reactionary defense mechanism. I think if you’re having trouble staying with sensation in your daily life, don’t try. Let it go for a bit and it will come back. The effort will only fortify the walls around you. The act of observation when forced becomes a silence that is held on to.  Trying to be silent is just tension. It’s a breath that we don’t let go of.

“I can’t seem to think straight”

I’ve noticed the great influence Vipassana has had on my life. The way I think, feel, the way I react or don’t react. We get to notice how busy the mind is when we give it some space. Then we have to deal with that. We let the animal out of its cage, because you can’t tame something when it’s tied up.

“I sit in the corner”

It is essential to bring Vipassana off the cushion and into daily living. That encompasses everything you do in a day. You can’t put your life in the meditation corner. I used to use Vipassana and remaining with sensation as a safety device in stressed out moments, but we have to deal with our stuff in every situation and we can’t always close our eyes to the world around us. Though the idea when closing my eyes in those situations was always to gain the awareness to just observe, it was a controlling to get there. To just observe means to not have to sit and close my eyes when these reactions occur. Going into meditation ‘mode’ can backfire as a reaction. We have to watch for that.

“Where no one can bother me”

After a few weeks back from the Vipassana center, it always seems like a wonderful idea to go back there. It’s such a lovely place with so many wonderful people who are all trying to help themselves and others. There’s also the great space and dedication to meditation. Imagine the focus I could get from setting aside my daily living… Nothing doing! We can’t run away from our problems to a nice centre to have a vacation. It’s not for that. Knowing that my Vipassana courses may have been the best weeks of my life is fine, but my life is happening now and comparing it to the past only creates an issue. Even having the meditation technique and labelling myself as a meditator had brought a division for me in the past. Everyone breathes! People who haven’t taken a course of Vipassana are still by technicality meditators. Everyone has some level of equanimity or awareness with their sensations, they just might not understand how to use them to their benefit. Thinking that being at the Vipassana centre would be better than where I am is just a lack of equanimity.

“I think I should speak now”

During my courses I usually think of questions to ask the assistant teachers at the noon hour interviews. I roll over the questions forever in my mind, killing myself with thought. Do I know this? Should I speak? I remember telling one teacher how I thought about the question for thirty minutes, just repeating it over and over. He just said, well next time it’ll hopefully be fifteen minutes. It will, maybe, or I’ll simply be more equanimous with it being thirty.

“Why won’t you talk to me?”

At a course, silence is very healthy for developing our awareness, but sometimes it is healthy to speak and let it out of us. I feel released when I burst out. Though, perhaps a quick-fix to joy, we can still do these quick-fixes and be with the sensation. What does it feel like when you bash your head into the wall? To be equanimous, we can’t hold back our outbursts. We need them still. If you can’t breathe it, speak it and if you can’t speak it, make up things that sound like words. A quick release may be more helpful in keeping your long term meditation practice then forcing the attention. It’ll put you in the proper state so you can continue with a more balanced mine.

“I can’t seem to speak now. You never talk to me.”

In my family I’ve often been the bridge between my brother (intellectual, analytical ranter) and the others in my family. They would see him from another world, while I would be able to see his world and that of the others. I was sometimes torn between the two, feeling that I had to stand for one side. The worlds feel more closely knit now, because they were never really separate to begin with, but for a time I didn’t know where to stand. I could see both sides, but I couldn’t articulate or help with the communication between them and so I wouldn’t speak at all. This has had its own context for me to learn from, but even when we can’t say speak, we have to do our best. Our persistence is equal to our success. Take me as an example. “I speak words good now.”

“My words won’t come out right.”

As I developed my ability to articulate these things that I understood, there are times when even with a great delivery, people won’t get it. We can’t do anything about getting someone else to understand what we know. In our words, we can continue to plant the seeds of Dhamma and goodness, but don’t pull them out of the ground while you’re trying to get them to grow taller. That’s not up to us. We can only water our own.

“What are you thinking?”

I sometimes have a thought that babies and little kids are telepathic. As the mind gets quieter we sometimes have very clear moments of how busy it is. This sometimes makes me feel crazy. I think in this craziness, “I hope these kids aren’t reading my thoughts.” A strange idea. We’re always so curious about what a baby might be thinking or how a child or an animal sees the world. What’s the dog thinking right now? We want to study others to learn about ourselves, but we can study ourselves. What am I thinking? That would be good to pay attention to.

“I feel like I’m drowning”

These thoughts of ours can be overwhelming. That’s life. It can be hard. I encourage you to keep at it. If you’re shaking, shake with it. See how long it takes before you come to the surface and find your breath again.

“What are you feeling?”

I experience so many emotions every day, but I’m beginning to see that when you have a balanced mind you don’t see them so much as these secluded emotions. You can’t label them so easily. As you are aware of pain, it isn’t pain anymore. Instead, it’s a lot of prickly sensations with some hot spots, some itching and so on. When you’ve seen the itching as it really is, what will you be feeling? Will you have a name for it?

“I’m feeling weak now.”

Weakness, vulnerability and a feeling of humbleness. Perhaps if I was completely aware of what these really were I wouldn’t feel them as these. People say it’s good to be vulnerable. To me it is in these outbursts when I feel this way. Reactions, in a sense. The release I feel wouldn’t be there if I was watching these feelings flower and wither away. There is great strength in arising and passing away. The imperturbability of on going equanimity. This weakness is a reaction, but to control an outburst labeling it as being weak is ‘nothing doing.’ If you’re upside down crawling the walls, take a look. See with equanimity how awesome that is. Soon you’ll come back to your cushion, but if you tear the wall down you’ll get hurt. For the time being, that wall is keeping you up.

“I sometimes wonder, where do we go from here?”

I have no idea where meditation will continue to bring me, but it will be more as life goes on. As I meditate now, being aware of sensation as I write this, I don’t have anything else to say. Why label what I am feeling as it passes away? Perhaps for no reason at all, ever. Perhaps for context. At some point I’ll gather all this up and reflect on it, as I’m reflecting on what was, now.

Communication happens on so many levels. Whether it’s music or words, they are only helpful when they bring us to silence. That’s where we hear them.

“It doesn’t have to be like this.
All we have to do is make sure we Keep Talking.”

Thanks for listening.

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This entry was posted in Observations, Personal Experiences by Ryan Shelton. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

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