Setting the Stage

Shinzen Young describing what he means by having a complete experience (Jan. 6, 2009):

Having a complete experience is a technical term. I don’t mean complete in the sense it was intense. I don’t mean complete in the sense that you stayed with it until the end—although that’s part of it. By complete I mean there was a certain critical mass of concentration, clarity, and equanimity present from beginning to end in that experience.

We can’t always have complete experiences, but sometimes we can and with practice we can have them more and more.

When we have a complete experience of something that’s ordinary, it becomes utterly extraordinary. It becomes paradoxical in that it becomes deeply fulfilling and no longer there at the same time…One could also say that when you bring an extraordinary degree of concentration, clarity, and equanimity to an extraordinary experience it becomes utterly ordinary. That’s the path of liberation instead of the path of powers.

We can’t always have enough concentration, clarity, and equanimity to have a complete experience of something. But maybe we can have a little bit of concentration or a little bit of clarity or a little bit of equanimity and that’s not too shabby. Maybe we can’t have any concentration, clarity, and equanimity at all under certain circumstances. But we can have equanimity with that. We can accept that that’s the case and we can continue to do formal practice despite the fact that we have essentially no concentration, no clarity, and no equanimity.

However, we’re still setting the stage for nature to do its job. We’re catalyzing a natural process. We’re giving nature what it needs. On the surface it seems like we’re wasting our time because it's like total monkey mind, total confusion, total lost in emotional chaos, sleepiness, aches and pains, etcetera. But deep down, slowly, changes are taking place, even under those circumstances.