One of the first things that beginners in meditation experience is the stark realization of how much endless, random thinking fills their heads, all the time, which they have become so accustomed to as to treat it as “reality”. Sitting down to meditation in silent retreat, without phones and computers and headphones, without chat and snacking mindlessly, the sheer volume and scattered directionlessness of it all can certainly feel overwhelming.
Here is a short excerpt from the Q&A at the end of our recent retreat at Synthesis Yoga Center, Athens. We had just finished three days of silent sitting, and turned around to break our silence. Just then, a golden shaft of Greek sun was passing down into the room from one of the upper windows. And the extraordinary amount of dust swirling around astounded several of us — even in this super-clean yoga shala. Inside the shaft of golden sunlight, there was so much dust; but outside the sharp edges of the shaft of sun, there was no dust to be seen in the comparatively unilluminated remainders of the room.
After several questions and answers were exchanged, one student asked why she seems to always experience “more” thinking during sitting meditation than she seems to experience in her “usual” mundane life.
Q: Is it normal that when I am sitting Zen meditation I have even more thoughts than in my normal life?
A: (Searching for something in the air). We can’t see it anymore, but the answer was right in front of your nose a few minutes ago. Did you see the sunlight and the dust? The dust is still floating here in the room, even though it cannot be seen just now. It didn’t just like go: ‘‘Ok guys as soon as the retreat is over, we all get in the centre, but we got to be at the same angle from there to here, it’s going to be tight, and move around and…’’ but all the other space is empty…? You think that happened, possibly? Do you think so? Student: No. HGS: Good, so there’s the answer to your question. […]
For anyone who might be interested, here is the full exchange: