What do you prefer to meditation

Sitting in meditation, being still and inward is an isolating activity. But it puts you in touch with others when they come into your mind. Your friends, work colleagues, students and relatives come to your meditation session as people you are thinking about or with whom you have imaginary (or remembered) conversations or whose presence you perceive as a physical or emotional reminder of the togetherness.

Honesty helps you understand more deeply

If you work internally on your relationships in meditation, you may find this to be one-sided because you miss the "input" of the real person. But this work on your part of the relationship can also go deeper and be more honest because you are doing it to yourself, undisturbed. You can then dwell on a situation (or matter) longer internally, perhaps shedding its layers and exploring the entanglements of your complex inner world in ways that you would not be able to do if you were to talk to someone about it.

However, you will need to talk to others about certain things because meditation cannot work everything through for you. Meditation like I used it in the book Thoughts are not the enemywill help you sit down and look at interpersonal issues, but it will not resolve or "fix" them for you. You have to do that together with the people involved. Just as being honest with yourself will help you understand more deeply what is actually going on within you, so being honest with others will also help you understand more deeply what is actually going on between you and other people.

Many meditators may doubt whether there is any value in discussing a problem with others because they have experienced that in meditation they have been able to let go of certain things spontaneously. Some may even come to believe that since these problems have disappeared, they never really had substance - that they were somehow not real at all. What a shock when someone else brings up an issue that you thought was done or didn't really exist! When that happens, the question arises whether you are prepared to work the topic through with the other person - or whether it is something you have outgrown or actually left behind.

Finding a middle ground between the extremes

Others may choose the opposite path because they feel that everything they experienced in meditation needs to be shared with another person so that he or she can be fully understood. Such discoveries can then lead to confessions, new or "improved" narratives, and confrontational behaviors that did not work. If one takes seriously what one experiences about oneself in meditation and does not see it as a temporary phenomenon, it can lead to the fact that one actually has to confront certain things about oneself. But you don't have to tell others everything you find out about yourself - you can keep anything you don't want to say to yourself and only talk about the things you want to talk about.

We are talking about a middle ground here, one that lies between the extremes of total self-exposure and the silent conviction that everything is done and buried. When in doubt, I myself tend to remain silent, as probably most meditators do. Meditation, which is so much about inner peace and quiet, often exerts an attraction on those who also prefer peace and quiet in their relationships.

Meditation also attracts people who want to work on themselves for themselves, a do-it-yourself method of psychological well-being, and so a fairly large proportion of practitioners prefer anything other than talking about what they are thinking and feeling . So we need to find ways to approach the middle ground, that is, find ways to have honest conversations with others about what is important in our relationships. One way to start is by reporting honestly about what is happening in your meditation sessions.

Talk about meditation sessions

At some point I started giving people the opportunity to share their meditation sessions in the group. In a one-on-one session, the meditation students talk about their meditation session and the teacher asks questions and gives guidance. Reporting in the group is basically a one-on-one interview that takes place within the group. Make sure you are okay with reporting personal details from your sessions. How far you want to go, that is, what details you want to share with others and which ones you want to keep to yourself, is always your personal decision.

This article is from Jason Siff's book Thoughts Are Not the Enemy. We thank Arbor Verlag for permission to print.