Long meditations should be followed on the same day by a discussion of the experience with someone qualified to give guidance. This stimulates reflection on the meditation practice and the application of its principles, which helps you to access your potential for personal growth.

Some of the most important issues that come up in meditation guidance usually relate to the way people meditate. This is less obvious than you might think. Meditators often begin their guidance session by defining their problem in terms of the spontaneous content of their meditation rather than their actual practice of the technique. They may be unable to achieve the same good feeling in meditation as before, or they feel restless, have problems relaxing, are overwhelmed by thoughts, or feel that the meditation sound fades too easily.

However, content is not the best criterion for good meditation. What you feel in meditation is much less important than how you deal with your feelings. It is more fruitful to discuss what you do when you meditate, and the guide will therefore ask questions that shift the focus to your actual practice: for instance, “When you feel restless, how does that influence your repetition of the meditation sound?”

Because such influences take place in the twilight zones of consciousness, it is not easy to answer questions like this. It may be tempting to lapse into clichés such as “I repeat the sound with a free mental attitude”. But questions that deal with your meditation practice touch blindspots in the mind, and it is important to reflect on them. Gradually, it may be possible to reach a new framing of the problem, which will usually revolve around the way you meditate. For example, you may discover that you are repeating the sound with excessive force in order to avoid being drawn into spontaneous thoughts, or that you are repressing feelings of uneasiness or restlessness because you believe that they are not a proper part of meditation. Even if this goes against the principle of the free mental attitude, you believe – in your blindness – that you have no other choice.

When you discover that the problem lies, not in the content of your meditation, but in how you deal with it, you can begin to influence the situation. This implies a shift from a kind of passivity to an active and responsible attitude to meditation – and, subsequently, to life.