I'm still reverberating slightly after a meditation retreat last week. It resonated on several levels, but what's relevant here is that I developed a better understanding of reflection.
Based on the teacher's instructions, it seemed that I'd actually been practicing reflection for a long time, before I ever started meditating. I described to her my process of lying on the couch and letting my mind sink, and she confirmed that this was indeed what she'd been talking about.
Reflection, at least in this sense, isn't thinking. It's like putting a question into your mind and then holding it there while looking down a well to see if anything floats up out of the shaft. The trick is learning to train your attention on the empty space inside the well, without letting your intellect fill it up with a lot of ideas.
What eventually surfaces can be an image, a word, or a phrase. In the case of this blog entry, it was both. I sat down and reflected in order to decide what to say here, and what came up was the phrase "reflection isn't thinking." I starting writing that down, and the well image followed before I had finished.
Reflection is a powerful tool for me. I use it to solve all sorts of problems, not just writing problems-for example, to figure out what's really going on when something upsets me, so I can respond effectively, or to make tough decisions. What I understand now is that although this process is related to meditation, there's a difference, which has to do with intention. Problem-solving reflection is goal oriented. Meditation is not. I was concerned that the one might be contaminating the other. But the teacher gave me some advice that works in either case: don't let the reflection tip over into obsession. The acid test is falling into repetition: the same thoughts cycle back over and over, and you can't let them go. The well shaft doesn't stay empty-it overflows.
Causes Stephanie Golden Supports
Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA
Brooklyn for Peace
New York Insight Meditation Center
Coalition for the Homeless