Whilst staying at Throssel Hole recently a period of working meditation afforded me this deep feeling of inadequacy or uselessness. I felt completely helpless. I bit down on the accompanying anxiety and finished off my dish drying and went to meditate in the ceremony hall. On the cushion my heart was ripped open - this deep cold metallic feeling of inadequacy glimmering in moldy bronze. I sat and I sat and watched attentively.
Anyone who has meditated for any length of time knows that not all meditation experiences are happy or unhappy. A lot of the time they are uneventful and boring. Sometimes we get little clues. The few insights I’ve experienced like this have given me clues into how I should operate as a better human in society. In that, me feeling useless deep down covered up with things and the accompanying anxiety, is not going to be very useful in my life or anyone’s around me. Right now I feel like I'm talking about some kinda heart break and it does feel like that with these experiences sometimes.
I feel this state of inadequacy has been some kind of negative beacon that’s coursed me to react, generally overreact in certain situations. I feel this deep sense of uselessness has probably caused a lot of negative situations in my life. But what really is this insight? A lot of people practice to receive certain states of enlightenment and awakening. I have little interest or direct training in such matters but they seem to me quite useless and through experience of these states or Jhāna ultimately see them as empty and something to work through. Although Zen does have the ten bulls or ox herding pictures, generally from my experience and the teachers and monks I have encountered discourage dwelling on such matters. Buddhism is ultimately not a contemplative philosophy it is a means of or call to action. Any experiences one has through practice should be instantly related to one’s day to day life - referencing them as points of validation to the depths of practice seems not only useless but possibly destructive to the practice. We must use any insights or understandings off our cushions. Someone once asked me how deep I had gotten with my practice. I replied: I once helped an old lady across the road and didn’t think the act either good or bad till I got home later that day.
So while I could get carried away by this insight into the sense of inadequacy I could look at what is really going on here. Firstly who is feeling the inadequacy? Secondly what is inadequacy? Point me towards these things. When I stop for a moment after being carried away by this I see I can’t really point at these things. The best way, for me, is to note these things and move beyond them and get back to my cushion.