How To Know If It’s Time To Stop Meditating

When we try to go on a meditation retreat, we think we are doing a lot to prepare ourselves for enlightenment. But we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into, and even when we stop, it may take time to recover the practice.

One of the great discoveries of Buddhist philosophy lies in the realization that all things occur in succession. Once given birth to a flower, that flower will die shortly thereafter. The same is true of a human soul. Once given human shape, that human soul will one day cease to exist. In the process of death, that human soul gives up all of its attachments and sins and can once again become what it was intended to be. This process of death is called the passing away.

After one of my last meditation sessions, I was talking with my friend, who is Buddhist, and she asked me a question that really blew my mind. She said, “You know, one of the basic teachings of Buddhism and of Dzogchen is that your spiritual teacher is here.” And she looked at me for a bit, then gave me a look that said “So that’s it.

Once you know this, you know that your mind is your teacher. That is all it is.” And then she asked me again: “You know, you should stop. You have no idea how long that is going to take.” And I stared at her. Because I thought to myself, who wants to stop after ten years or after thirty years? I want to continue going on forever!

So I have stayed on. For me, meditation has always been a way of coming back to the present moment. In other words, if you are mindful and you see that you are breathing, that is still breathing, so you continue. If you realize that this feeling here in this moment is very similar to the feelings here in that moment, which are also similar, and in that way, the feeling here is identical with the feeling that was there the first time, then you continue. If you notice that this sound here, which you were just breathing, has the same meaning with the sound that was here, that meaning will persist.

This continued practice is what it means to be mindful, and then you are able to look at your life and see how it relates to time. As long as you are in this present moment, you are living in it as it really feels, for your own body and your own mind. And this gives you a kind of self awareness which is called self-awareness. As we come closer to being present in the present moment, however, our sense of time begins to fade and, to some degree, our sense of self-knowledge begins to fade. We realize that our senses do not work in real time. They work in real time and we are aware of that; but we realize that they are functioning at the pace of real time and that we are operating from moment to moment, not, say, two and a half seconds or one and a half seconds.

As we come closer to becoming present in the present moment, our sense of self begins to fade, because we become aware that we are not the actor of our lives. And when you are aware of that, you just become less aware of yourself. This is actually an important aspect of the process of death. So when I am talking to my friend and she says, “You know, one of the basic teachings of Buddhism and of Dzogchen is that your spiritual teacher is here.” And she looked at me for a bit, then gave me a look that said “So that’s it. You really think the teacher is here.” And I realized it’s just my imagination that I am the teacher and not her at all. You can look to others as your teachers.

And so I have come further and further away from it, and at some point I said, “I don’t want to be here anymore, and this will not help; there are too many distractions, too many distractions, and I need to be with my friend and just observe.” I felt that I was beginning to lose touch with my friends, when she just replied, “You know, it could still be a few minutes before they arrive.” And so I took off.