I meet with a lot of people who say things like, “Oh, I’ve tried meditation before but I’m just not good at it.” When asked to explain, the most common answer is, “I just can’t make my mind get quiet.” I’ve heard responses like this so often that I’ve come to realize that this is the single greatest misunderstanding about meditation. In truth, meditation is not about calming our mind or achieving a state free from mental noise and cognitive clutter. Far from it, actually.
I was residing at Wat Pah Nanachat (the “International Monastery” originally founded by the beloved Thai monk Ajahn Chah) outside Ubon Ratchathani, a medium-sized town in Thailand not far from the border of Cambodia. Although I wasn’t a monk at the time, my lifestyle was similarly austere. I slept on a bamboo cot placed in the middle of the jungle with nothing but a mosquito net above me, no ceiling, no walls, no electricity, just a thin blanket and a small backpack’s worth of belongings–a change of clothes, toothbrush, miniature flashlight, journal and a few pens for writing.