ANA (a budding spiritual teacher)
MARTIN (a spirited attendee of a public talk by Ana)
JARED (a personal development coach, also attending Ana’s talk)
Part II (Click here to read Part I)
JARED …There is definitely a misunderstanding.
ANA May I clarify what I meant about perfection to you both?
ANA Wonderful. So… Martin, right?
ANA Martin, I’m sorry I gave you the impression that I was discouraging political activism. That was in no way my intention.
MARTIN It certainly seemed like the natural conclusion to what you were saying.
ANA Quite the opposite. I’m a deep advocate for compassionate, non-violent political action. So much of the world is consumed by hate and greed and unnecessary suffering.
ANA And I’d love to talk more about the role I see meditation playing in all that. But first—I’m sorry sir, but what is your name?
JARED I’m Jared.
ANA It’s good to meet you, Jared. I’m Ana.
JARED Yes, I know!
ANA So. Martin.
ANA My experience has been this. I spent most of my young life consumed by resentment and rage. I believed that the system was broken, that people were broken, that I was broken. And I was desperate to fix it. All of it.
JARED I used to think I was broken too!
ANA Right. This need to fix drove all of my thoughts and actions—for decades.
MARTIN So far this doesn’t sound like a bad thing. It sounds like you were motivated to improve yourself and the world.
ANA I was. Except nothing important actually changed.
MARTIN What do you mean?
ANA I mean that people everywhere were still suffering, and I was too. And it didn’t matter how hard I worked.
MARTIN Well of course some people will always be suffering… but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do something about it.
JARED I’m not sure I agree that people will always be suffering! I think that’s a negative stance. Humanity’s going through an unprecedented wave of empowerment and evolution—people are waking up to their full creative potential! There’s no saying how much progress we’ll be able to make collectively this century. If—
MARTIN If we survive this century.
JARED Now see, that’s extremely negative.
ANA May I continue?
ANA So—I was trying to fix everything, but everyone (including me) still seemed to be suffering basically constantly.
ANA And then something happened.
JARED You realized you weren’t a victim to your circumstances!
ANA Well… I suppose you could say that. I’d put it a little differently.
JARED How would you put it?
ANA I’d say I somehow found myself asking myself the question—
JARED —“How am I creating this?”
ANA I… sort of. Originally it occurred to me as the question… “what if there’s absolutely nothing to fix?”
MARTIN I truly cannot imagine how or why anyone would ever ask that question. Except, I suppose, someone with deep privilege and a subconscious interest in maintaining it unquestioningly.
ANA No, that’s a fair point. That may have been my motivation for asking it, originally. And perhaps exhaustion.
JARED You know, exhaustion is really a problem with chronic stress. Have you tried adaptogens?
ANA I don’t believe I have. But when I asked myself this question, “what if there’s nothing to fix,” something strange began happening. I’ve never quite been able to describe it… but suddenly all the problems I’d been fighting against in the world, and in my own life, seemed… empty. Like tricks my mind had been playing on itself. And a series of dominoes began to fall.
MARTIN And then you had that experience you described in your talk.
ANA Yes, exactly.
MARTIN Your description of that experience is precisely the thing I’ve been having trouble with. The whole “perfection” thing.
ANA Well, that’s the thing. When I described that experience, I never meant to imply that “everything is perfect” is a truth about the world.
MARTIN Generally when you start a sentence with “everything is…” that does suggest that you’re communicating a truth about the world.
ANA Language might get us into trouble here. But—
JARED Language is important. It creates our reality!
ANA The felt experience of absolute perfection isn’t an objective political fact, nor is it even “perfection” as distinct from “imperfection.” It’s an experience, a flavor of reality, available to the human spirit in any moment, that immediately relaxes the constant, grasping impulse to “fix” that ordinarily keeps the mind’s hamster wheel of agonizing problem-perception spinning… and it’s an experience which, when relaxed into fully, allows for loving and skillful action to flow forth effortlessly in a way that it never can when the problem-seeking fixing impulse is constantly rushing ahead in a hopeless attempt to control the future.
ANA Basically, my experience has been that allowing myself to taste the experience of perfection, and to stop constantly fighting against the present moment exactly as it is, equips me infinitely better to love and serve and help others than when I approached all of life as a problem to be solved.
MARTIN And you’re saying that meditation helps you to “taste this experience.”
ANA Yes, certain types of meditation do.
MARTIN Would you suggest, then, that we simply teach oppressed, abused, and starving populations how to meditate, and all their problems would go away?
JARED Well of course she’s not saying that.
MARTIN I’d like to hear her answer.