The Quiet Within

Testimonial of an inmate from prison in central Israel

For me, meditation means a chance to observe mymind. I notice things that I’d never noticed before. For example, the way that my thoughts are sometimes stormier before I meditate. Over time I’ve realized that I’m just becoming more aware of the noise that has always been there in my thoughts. I see that my thoughts are intrusive and repetitive, even when I try to become more aware of my breathing and more connected to the moment. It’s like they’re managing and controlling me, unless I’m aware that it’s only thoughts and that they don’t define who I am.

I’ve learned that whether I cling to what is good or reject what I perceive and experience as bad, it causes me more suffering. And since everything in the world is temporary and transient, neither good nor bad, it will not stay fixed. My entire life I planned to create a reality that would give me the security I wanted as soon as I touched it. Today I know that the hope that reality will be different from here on out, and that the “new” reality will give me a sense of happiness and joy, is an illusion. It only brings tension, anxiety, fear, and discomfort. Today I’m practicing how to be calmer in the face of any reality, whatever it may be. Today I know that I can’t remove the sting of suffering from my private experience of this life – but I can decide how miserable I’m going to be.

I’ve been exposed to the reality that my thoughts are unforgiving towards myself. On the contrary – I have a tendency to be too hard on myself, to judge myself and my thoughts. I often have “you should…” kind of thoughts. I wasn’t aware of the content of my thoughts before, and how they show that I don’t appreciate myself or love myself – so how can I love others or see others? Not to mention the fact that these “should” thoughts are also directed at other people – as if my way is the only way in the world; as if I’m the center of the world. So from this new place I can also see other people’s suffering more, even people who are complete strangers to me. So it stimulates compassion in me towards myself and towards others.