When you aren’t easily satisfied, when you’re demanding and full of wants, you also get restless. When you don’t get what you want, your desires grow, and you get into a terrible cycle of wanting. you know what it’s like sometimes when you’re desperate: you don’t want to walk, you don’t want to sit down, you don’t want to sleep, and you think, “I’ve got nothing I want to do, and whatever I am doing now, I don’t want that either.” It’s a terrible situation to be in when nothing whatsoever satisfies you. It happens because you’ve developed it, because you’ve created the causes with wrong attitudes and misdirected attention. But if you develop stillness and calm by being easily satisfied and content, you’re creating the causes for powerful meditation to happen. If you just sit there, content, still, and accepting that this is good enough, everything starts to happen. you think, “Wow, at last I can do this!”
Always remember that it’s not that you can do it; it’s that you aren’t getting in the way. The process happens when “you” disappear. When you’re demanding, you are there. When you have ill will, you are there. When you have craving, you are there. When you have boredom, you are there. All these things create a sense of self that thinks it owns things and gets involved. you are the problem. And you can’t just go somewhere else: wherever you go, you take you with you. So everyone should disrobe: take off that “I-garment.” That which you take yourself to be, that sense of self, should leave and vanish. When the sense of you disappears, there’s no ill will or desire, because they’re part of the ego and the illusion of self. Then there can only be contentment and peace.
When I was a kid I was a Cub Scout. We used to get all these badges for things: a badge for being able to make a cup of tea, a badge for being able to light a fire. That’s what many people do on retreats—they want a badge for getting jhāna, a badge for becoming a stream-winner. But there are no badges on the Buddhist path. on the contrary, we’re trying to get rid of all those badges—whatever it is we think we are—so we can just disappear. When you’re restless, just disappear; when you’re tired, just disappear. When you disappear, everything becomes nice and peaceful. When you’re bored, ask, “Who’s being bored anyway?” Just disappear and the boredom will vanish.
If you’re contented and easily satisfied and have the attitude that the here and now is good enough, then problems occur only at the beginning of the path. After a while, they just vanish, and you’re flying—getting into nice meditation and spending hours perfectly happy and content. If that’s not happening yet, be patient—it will. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been practicing. Even for some of the Buddha’s greatest disciples, such as the venerable Anuruddha, it took many, many years before they got the full results of the practice. Give it time. In the suttas, when they say that someone from a good family went forth and “in no long time” became an arahant, sometimes they mean several decades. Fifteen or twenty years is “no long time” when you consider the timescales of saṃsāra.
So don’t expect things to happen immediately. your job is just to be quiet, calm, still, and peaceful. Don’t hold on to that water buffalo. Don’t chase it. Develop letting go, develop contentment, and develop the “good enough” attitude. By doing these things you’re developing the tools to perfect your meditation.
Sometimes a particular attitude or tool you’ve been using may start to lose its effectiveness. So use another tool, and then another. Little by little, using various strategies, you get through the early difficulties. once the mind develops properly and you start to experience peace and happiness, you really get into meditation. By then you don’t need all that much help. Sure I could give you a few instructions, but you’re already off having a wonderful time. And that’s exactly what I want for you.