THE WONDERS OF INSIGHT MEDITATION
How can we find the courage to confront our darkness and awaken to the reality of our lives? The courage to confront the chaos of our internal world, as well as the reality of the monumental environmental crisis we are in, massive issues and obscene corruption within our political spheres, a financial system that is bankrupt, as well as the greatest epidemic of mental illness probably ever known in human history? It breaks my heart to see so many young people getting utterly fucked because the pain is too much, but it also makes total sense. We were never taught how to be with ourselves, so we abandon ourselves. Our very livelihood taken away from us, our sense of aliveness, connection and child-like imagination destroyed and rendered unimportant by a patriarchal society that worships money and a lust for power and domination.
The wonders of insight meditation can offer a profoundly simple, gentle, priceless way of delving into our unconscious, and inquiring into the very messy space of our internal landscape. Through the practice of insight meditation, we can relearn how to sit with difficult, painful emotions, allowing all of ourselves to be held in our awareness. From anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, depression, doubt, certainty, joy, bliss…We learn to feel into and observe and deeply embrace all of our experience through a kind, nourishing, patient attention, rather than cling on, act out or run away from our emotions. As the Buddha said, ‘This, too, will pass’. All our emotions and thoughts are transient, in constant flux and change, therefore there is no fixed self.
In particular, we give the unwanted parts of ourselves a non-reactive, loving, soft attention. We relearn how to love our bodies as they are, rather than fearing or hating them. Insight meditation is defined as ‘feeling into’ our emotions with an unconditional, non-judgmental awareness. We shine the light of our loving attention inwardly, observing how our mind operates, feeling into the textural landscape of our messy inner self, and ultimately learning to regain a sense of intimacy with ourselves and the world around us. We learn to love our bodies as they are rather than straightjacket ourselves to fit some fucked up ideal billboarded by capitalism. We become more sensitised to what our bodies actually need. We acknowledge that we may need support from fellow practitioners and therapists. We come out of our incessant stream of thoughts, and directly feel into our bodily experience. We regain our inner sense of authority. A joy for life opens. We can cultivate these attitudes on and off of the cushion. This isn’t just about sitting in meditation for 20 minutes everyday (although that can be very useful), this is about infusing our lives with curious, empathic attention.
‘What we do to the planet, we do to ourselves.’ Anti-Fracking Protest in Lancashire. Taken by myself
The awareness we give ourselves is a creative awareness. We invite a light, playful, curious attention to all of our inner world. It’s about becoming conscious of the world we are in. We may notice how judgmental and critical we are of ourselves, as well as towards others. Through patient and kind awareness, we learn how to drop unhelpful habits of thinking that are destructive to our emotional wellbeing, and learn to cultivate a nourishing, compassionate and curious attitude towards ourselves that is healing and nourishing and ultimately makes us feel good. In doing so, our relationships with our family and friends naturally begin to improve as the fruits of our practice begin to take shape. We begin to come back to life, and experience the vibrancy of ourselves, as well as the vibrancy of all life around us.
Insight meditation is ultimately about cultivating empathy. It is accepting that there is suffering, and that there is liberation from suffering. It requires considerable patience and a willingness to embrace all of ourselves. It is really about remembering that we are beautiful. At first, we begin slowly, taking small steps, and then gradually build from there. It may be shocking at first to see how relentlessly self-critical we are towards ourselves and those around us. We may feel swathes of sadness, deep longings, raging anger, as well as amazing bliss, and wonderful joy. Only through truly accepting all of ourselves can we begin to know ourselves more, and create sustainable and healthy relationships with those we love.
This isn’t about finally experiencing bliss, or reaching some end goal. Insight meditation is about feeling the entire human experience. It is about becoming whole human beings; sensitive, engaged and compassionate in a world that has gone insane. It is about regaining our sense of dignity and inner authority. It is about realising our relationship to ourselves is ultimately the same as our relationship to our friends. If we can heal ourselves, we can begin healing a world that is starving, emotionally / spiritually. If we want to create a beautiful world and heal the disorientating damage that has been and continues to be inflicted to the earth, as well as various oppressed groups of peoples, then first we must look to ourselves. We are the reason there is so much misery, confusion and despair raging across our communities and planet. Therefore, we are the ones that require radical self-love / self-contemplation and radical support from one another if we are to come out of this environmental, social and political chaos alive. Human change is primary, our actions will then spawn naturally from a changed, whole, compassionate, universal perspective. Most importantly, we need each other. We recognise our interdependency with all of life, and that to be a healthy human is to be living in a healthy community. And that our inner world is ultimately intertwined with our outer world.
Insight meditation is not easy. However, it can be incredibly liberating, offering a platform to come alive and taste the world again. It allows us to reimagine how we can live together in radically alternative, loving ways. It permits us to feel our vulnerability, our emotions, our longings and take ownership of ourselves. It sets us free. If you want to learn more, here are some useful links. Alternatively, you can get in contact with me!
I’m planning on starting up a young persons meditation group in Southend.
Lots of love brothers and sisters X
- Henry Wilcox