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Drop your struggle - Sam Harris Daily Meditation 2023.01.24

Sam Harris

Just drop your struggle and simply be

What´s the nature of the "struggle"? It´s the urge to change something about the nature of the momentary experience. To make it more, less, more permanent, or different from what it is.

Here is an example of myself meditating. As visual meditation object, I have a golden bowl placed on a window sill. When I begin a meditation session, I very often notice the desire to move it just to the center of my visual field (to do this I have to get up).

Then I notice that the curtain of the window somehow is not aligned vertically (have to get up again).

Then I notice that the temperature of the room is not right (have to get another pullover).

Then I notice that I miss a smell (fire up a candle stick).

Then I notice, when I meditate with music, that the sound balance of the speakers is not just right (have to fiddle with the mobile).

Then I notice that I notice "too much".

There´s an infinite number of moments where something is just not right, includings one´s own reactions to something not being right...

That´s kind of like what is happening all the time in real life, for example in conversation while listening.

And how does that come about?

It´s basically an automatic process, anchored at a very deep genetic level, to move towards what is somehow pleasing or useful (what might extend our life, or at least that of the species), and to move away from pain (which might shorten our life and reduce the species survival). Even amoeba do it. It´s in every cell, so to speak, and then in the mind.

Sam Harris very often lets the listener become aware of this tendency. E.g he sais "Check your attitude!". And then he does one or more things:

  • he asks "to whom does this appear?" in order to initiate a search operation in the listener

  • for those who don´t get it by themselves he points out that these feelings are appearances in consciousness too

  • he suggests to simply drop it and just be.

Tracing clinging and aversion at micro level

I had a surprising insight into what happens unconsciously all the time at micro-level, moment by moment, through Culadasa´s "The Mind Illuminated".

His approach is much more detailed than Sam Harris´ "check your attitude".

He points out that continuously while perceiving we cycle through a sequence of 5 steps, and with sufficient attention one can actually observe this in oneself:

  • Contact

  • Feeling

  • Craving

  • Intention

  • Action

Source: Culadasa, The Mind Illuminated

Here an example by Culadasa:

For a more complex example involving thought, let’s say your attention falls on the sensation of an energy movement in the body. It’s accompanied by a feeling of unpleasantness, which becomes the next object of attention. This is followed immediately by a sense of aversion, toward which attention now turns. Aversion triggers an unconscious thought, produced by one of the discriminating sub-minds, which then appears in peripheral awareness with a strong intention to become an object of attention. Attention notes this intention. The action that ensues is a shift of attention to the thought. Now, the cycle repeats, this time with the thought as the initial object of attention. It may be a thought about inner winds or prāṇa, and because this is an interesting topic, you observe how the thought elicits a positive feeling of pleasure. Following this, you may detect the desire to allow this train of thought to continue. This whole process crystallizes into an intention to continue pursuing the next associated thought, and so on. With practice, you can follow this unfolding elaboration of thought without losing your metacognitive perspective. You can just “sit back” and allow the next thought to appear, following its own sequence of dependent arising (p 308)


Yates (Culadasa), J., & Immergut, M. (2017). The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness. Hay House Uk.

A thought on...

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