Breaking the Shell

Vipassana Meditation – Hear the audio or read the text.


Our basic values and views can tell us a great deal about the way we think and they way we view the world.

Take a few minutes to really consider this question – “ What do I believe the purpose of life is?”

This question cuts to the heart of spirituality and therefore is an excellent starting point to examine what it is that drives us.

In the current modern world, in the West here, common values are disintegrating and we are left with a real melting pot of views in terms of spirituality. I think this is a good thing because it means we aren’t being pushed by the general society into particular religious beliefs. But there is of course one common value that is very much there. Materialism. We live in a society that is very much materialistic so we do need to look at this and see how it affects us when we answer this question.

The potential answer to this question covers a complete spectrum and we have many different approaches and religious views to draw on. As we consider our answer, we need to see where the answer comes from and how it makes us feel. We need to apply pure self-honesty to see what is driving out thinking. We need to look at the view we are choosing to see if it makes reasoned sense and what the likely consequences of the view might be in practice. And we need to examine our reaction to the view to see whether our choosing is based on superficial feelings or a real feeling of deep intuition. We will find that some views seem to constrain us and tie us down while others truly make us feel open and provide opportunity to expand our spiritual nature. This is more challenging than we probably expect.

The Buddha Said

“Who is your enemy? Mind is your enemy. Who is your friend? Mind is your friend. Learn the ways of the mind. Tend the mind with care”.

We have a story telling mind and it can mislead us just as easily as another person. Once we learn this and we learn to not necessarily trust everything our minds tell us. Then we start to make progress. Trust the way the world is rather than what our mind is telling us.

As we get older this mind machine gets more complex. It populates the stories it tells us with even more complex and subtle arguments and beliefs. Take another look at the question we have asked here –  “What do I believe the purpose of life is”. You have your view now and it is probably quite difficult to explain what it is. So many conflicting things come in to play. We here our mind saying “this is what my view SHOULD be” rather than what my view actually is.

Now spin yourself back to when you were five or six years old. Ask your younger self the same question. The answer is no doubt more pure, direct heartfelt. It may be entirely different.

So, although it is important to think things through with logic. Actually, there are some questions that are best answered with pure awareness and intuition. The questions which don’t seem to have a pure right and wrong and are very important to us. With these questions we must take great care that our mind isn’t misleading us. My advice here – USE MEDITATION! It can really help you. When faced with a challenge such as this, sit in meditation and just drop the question in to the subconscious mind. Work hard to not let conscious thinking take over. The more you practice, the easier this will get. Here we are working with the unconscious mind. We are allowing this to come forward. In Buddhist psychology – described in the Abhidama, we see two parts to the unconscious mind. The individual unconscious and the universal unconscious. With mindfulness we access and tap in to both. Our individual unconscious contains our deep store of our beliefs, habits, fears etc. This has been filled through our lives, becoming more complex and intertwined.

The universal conscious is a fascinating area. At first it sounds mystical and somehow esoteric. However, if we consider our physical bodies, it is fairly easy to understand that we are made up from the very elements around us, connected with them and constantly interchanging with them. If we consider that, they it is a small step to also consider the nature of mind. That this is also connected. We are breaking out of the artificial shell that this sense of ‘me’ and ‘I’ creates.

Of course, when we connect with such a vast experience, things will come up that make absolutely no sense to us. Because they are not emerging from our own experience. When these arise in meditation, we should just sit with them. Not try to push them away as irrelevant to us, but neither should we strive to logically understand them. Just soak them up as part of our experience. These experiences, the more we relax into them, may well help us to answer that key question here. “ What do I believe the purpose of life is?”

Do you have a friend who never lets you get a word in? Even when they ask you a question, before you’ve finished voicing your answer, they but in and tell you their view. Well the individual subconscious mind is like this. We need to give the universal subconscious a chance to speak to us.

So, the meditation. Vipassana. Detailed body scan. We are going to use the sensations of the body to concentrate the mind deeply. Poor all your awareness into fully experiencing the sensations in the body. Keep a small sense of awareness on what the mind is up to and notice it with interest. But don’t let it take over and tell you its stories. Stick to the meditation and the universal subconscious will start to unlock and reveal itself.