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Hey Jeff #2: Don’t Know Mind

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Hey Jeff #2: Don’t Know Mind

“I understand two things can be true at once. But figuring out where to sit between two truths makes my mind do somersaults.”

Welcome to  “Hey Jeff”, a column where I create a customized meditation in response to someone’s unique situation or challenge or curiosity.

This month, I respond to Mar, who is baffled by the idea of paradox. Below is her note, shared with permission, and a guided meditation.

Illustration by community member David Kantrowitz

Mar’s Note:

Hi Jeff,

My name is Mar.

One of the biggest ideas I struggle with in meditation is the seemingly never-ending paradoxes. I’m everything but I’m nothing. I’m everybody but I’m nobody. What we do matters because it shapes our future but the only thing that exists is this exact moment. Happiness beyond external factors is the goal but Buddhism focuses on life’s interdependence. Happiness beyond external factors sounds awesome but we depend so much on relationships and community. I think of the quote, “wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between the two, my life flows.” 

I understand two things can be true at once. But figuring out where to sit between two truths   

makes my mind do somersaults. Does everything matter and nothing matter at the same time? Or does everything matter in one moment, and nothing in the next? Do external influences matter, but only part of the time?

Hi Mar, it’s Jeff.

Great question. The first and most important thing to say is: I have no idea!

Now let’s explore paradoxes, because there seems to be no way around them. There are entire forms of practice that are about banging your head against exactly the confounds you describe. That’s what they do in Zen with koan practice. Impossible questions that crack us open to the mystery. If you’re drawn to paradox, you will find a whole rich path of practice to investigate (for a start, try this book).

I’ve noticed paradoxes only seem paradoxical to my rational mind. In experience itself, where is the paradox? There’s just sounds and sights and sensations and feelings and the thought “wait, that’s impossible!” floating past a random image of a cheeseburger. It can be a helpful exercise to identify where you really really think something must be true – where you have, essentially, collapsed the fundamental indeterminacy of reality into a static rule – and then to laugh at yourself, because … who do you think you are, and why should reality care? One of my favorite practices is laughing at the ridiculousness of my chimpanzee models of reality. Psychedelics are also very good for this.

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Home Base with Jeff Warren
Hey Jeff
Welcome to Hey Jeff, where I make customized meditations based on your requests. I love creating meditations that respond to a particular challenge or situation, a specific opportunity or curiosity. This column is for paid subscribers only.
Jeff Warren