We all tend to think we’re good at introspection. After all, we’re the ones thinking our thoughts. And everything we think and feel makes sense to us.
Sometimes it feels like we’re forensic psychologists… or maybe expert computer scientists. Our minds run processes, we investigate them and are happy we understand them.
But introspection is more like studying the ocean.
Most of us have seen the ocean. We can describe it, and talk about waves and fish. We’ve probably seen the ocean from different places and during different weather.
Maybe you can even boast seeing an ocean from both sides. I know I’ve flown over the Pacific a few times.
With all of this, you could talk for hours about it. And you’d feel that while there are some mysteries out there, you have a grasp of the basics.
But what do you know about the ocean really?
You could see it from the shore and think you know everything.
You could swim on a small bit of the surface close to the coast and feel smug knowing the ocean is wet.
But that illusion of understanding is a trap.
We think we know ourselves but that’s because we never step outside of ourselves. We can’t see the suit of our mind because we’re wearing it.
But you can strip down and inspect the suit. It involves quietening the mind, playing with it and tugging on loose cords. Then you have sudden insights about why you do what you do and think what you think.
This is true introspection – learning how your thoughts work, not just cataloguing them.
You can’t learn to do this consciously, just like how a magnifying glass can’t make itself bigger.
You have to dive into your unconscious.
Fortunately, it can be easy, simple and mostly pleasant.
And it can definitely be pleasant.
Even if you’ve struggled with meditation before, you’ve never learned it like this: