The Difference between Introspection and Self-Remembering in Meditation

Meditation is often misunderstood as a form of introspection, but it is important to recognize the subtle yet significant difference between introspection and self-remembering. While Western psychology emphasizes introspection – the act of thinking about oneself – Eastern psychology emphasizes self-remembering, which is a state of non-thinking awareness. In this article, we will explore the distinctions between these two approaches and why self-remembering is considered essential in meditation.

When we engage in introspection, we typically analyze and dissect our thoughts and emotions. For instance, if we feel anger, we may start thinking about its causes, judging whether it is good or bad, and rationalizing why it occurred. Our focus of attention is on the anger itself, rather than on our true self. Introspection involves watching, analyzing, associating, and thinking about our emotions, with the aim of understanding and controlling them. This analytical process has become a hallmark of Western psychology.

In contrast, self-remembering is about being aware without engaging in analytical thinking. When confronted with anger, for example, instead of analyzing it, we are encouraged to simply observe it without judgment. We are asked to be present in the moment, without allowing our thoughts to interfere. By maintaining a state of no thought, we can directly face and encounter our emotions. This direct experience allows us to see the true nature of our emotions, without the cloudiness that thinking can bring.

The beauty of self-remembering lies in its ability to make emotions disappear. When we truly look at anger without the interference of thoughts, it dissolves. This disappearance of anger through deep observation provides us with a key insight – we do not need to rely on willpower or make future decisions to control our emotions. We realize that the power to transform our emotions lies in the present moment, in our ability to look at them directly and face them head-on.

There are three stages of self-remembering. The first stage occurs when the emotion has already passed, and we can observe it as it fades away. This retrospective observation allows us to gain awareness of our emotional patterns. The second stage is when the emotion is at its peak – we are fully immersed in it. In this state, we become aware of the emotion and can observe it without getting carried away by it. The third stage is the most advanced – we become aware of the emotion as it arises, before it fully manifests. By catching the emotion at its inception, we can prevent it from materializing altogether.

This process of self-remembering is not limited to anger; it can be applied to any emotion or thought. The more we practice self-remembering, the deeper our awareness becomes. Over time, we develop the ability to observe our emotions and thoughts as they arise, without getting entangled in them. This heightened awareness allows us to navigate life with greater clarity and freedom.

In conclusion, meditation is not about introspection but about self-remembering. While introspection involves analyzing and dissecting our thoughts and emotions, self-remembering emphasizes non-thinking awareness. By observing our emotions without judgment or analysis, we can directly face and transform them. Self-remembering offers a powerful tool for personal growth and inner transformation. Through consistent practice, we can cultivate a deep sense of self-awareness and live more authentically in the present moment.