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The more I meditate the more weird I become. I feel stressed out while being with groups of people. I don't know what to say and I find the conversational topics deeply boring, meaningless and useless.

As a consequence of this I tend to isolate myself, communicate via social media and meditate many hours daily in my apartment. I don't really like to be around people when I meditate intensely.

I feel this life is more and more useless and sometimes I want to become a monastic and live in a jungle or forest. I can't do that right now because of paying off my student loan. If I didn't have that loan I would have gone forth by now.

It seems like I can't find a balance between the life of a meditator and as a lay person. Meditation pulls me inwards and makes me not want to be around people but the lay person in me still wants lay life type of things. I'm deeply ambivalent and conflicted about this. I feel like I'm being pulled in opposite directions and it feels like the meditation practice is ruining my life.

Is it possible to find a balance and still live in this world as a meditator or do I have to give up either the meditation practice or the lay life?

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  • nice question, maybe also some aspects of The Middle Way appropriate to question :) – M H Oct 20 '20 at 11:25
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I struggled with a similar problem for years, maybe decades. You see, the goal I set for myself back in 1995 was to figure out what that enlightenment thing was all about without leaving the world.

My logic was simple: if ego is the root of suffering and confusion, and it is the ego that tells me that I'm not satisfied with the worldly life and want something better, then wouldn't it be the perfect practice to actually not let the ego get what it wants? And so I practiced the path of pure egolessness while staying fully embedded inside the worldly circumstances.

Egolessness is a tricky game. You cannot allow yourself to indulge in any disbalance, since leaning in any direction would be used by the ego as its support. You can't be too worldly, too spiritual, too real, too nice, too anything - the only way to not feed ego is to not take any identifiable determinable form. You can't even be egoless. This rabbit hole goes pretty far :)

Needless to say, as I was mastering this, I went through phases similar to yours. I could barely talk to people at a BBQ party. I could not enjoy corporate lunches. I was rather conflicted about having a family, I certainly didn't enjoy it as a normal person would. I felt like I was playing this game without being part of this world. Sometimes I felt I was the most fake and the most egoistic person in the whole world. At other times I felt I was one with God. At yet other times I felt EVERYTHING was wrong. Or I felt I was losing my mind and could not concentrate on my own thoughts, as even my thoughts were fake.

Somehow in parallel with all that I did okay taking care of my job and my family, not because I was interested in it but rather as an effect of my effort to be as egoless as possible... But as much as I tried to always do what was necessary and required of me at each moment, I just couldn't pass for a normal person. My friends thought I was weird. They couldn't decide if I was a pushover or a jerk or maybe a sociopath. Can't blame them, I'm guessing it's hard to be a friend of someone who methodically tries to stop being anyone.

Fast forward to present, looking back at those 20 years I can tell you three things:

  1. It's okay to be weird. There are all kinds of weird people out there, weird in their funny ways. Why don't we have our right to be weird in our own ways?!
  2. It's just a phase. One day your practice will bear its fruit and things will get clear. The conflict between "is" and "should" will get resolved (not necessarily through reconciling the two).
  3. You can't run away from Samsara nor from your ego. If your mind is not at peace and you go somewhere, you'll take your problems with you. The only way to solve this is by solving the root problem, which is our innate ignorance about the nature of peace. Once we get clear in our own head how things work, the source of that perpetual conflict disappears and you don't have to be in the Himalayas for that.
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    Thank you kindly for this answer - it means a lot to me. You describe exactly what I'm going through. Especially bullet point number 3 is so true. It's not possible to run from this because the problem resides in the mind. Thank you again. – user19910 Oct 14 '20 at 10:11
  • You are welcome, sweetie. – Andrei Volkov Oct 14 '20 at 11:34
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Is it possible to find a balance? Yes. In fact, it is necessary to find balance.

The path is more than immersion. In fact, the practice is three-fold and comprises: wisdom, ethics, and immersion:

MN44:11.2: “The three practice categories are not included in the noble eightfold path. Rather, the noble eightfold path is included in the three practice categories.

”Right view and right thought: these things are included in the category of wisdom.

Right speech, right action, and right livelihood: these things are included in the category of ethics.

Right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion: these things are included in the category of immersion.

Although one may see the wisdom of the Noble Eightfold Path and practice immersion, one cannot omit ethics. Just like a three-legged stool missing a leg, so too would we topple over without the third practice, ethics. The middle part of the path is firmly rooted in ethics. And what are ethics? Ethics are what we practice when in the company of others.

MN8 has a good list of 44 ethical considerations that apply to all. Here are the first five:

MN8:12.2: ‘Others will be cruel, but here we will not be cruel.’

MN8:12.3: ‘Others will kill living creatures, but here we will not kill living creatures.’

MN8:12.4: ‘Others will steal, but here we will not steal.’

MN8:12.5: ‘Others will be unchaste, but here we will not be unchaste.’

MN8:12.6: ‘Others will lie, but here we will not lie.’

Being mindful of ethics when with others and will strengthen wisdom as well as immersion. Practice of ethics paves the way for the practice of immersion, which is later in the path. If any step on the path is difficult, look back at the steps that may have been skipped! All the steps on the Noble Eightfold Path matter. Right Immersion is the eight step. Seven steps precede and are quite important.

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    Thank you very much for reminding me about the ethics of our practice. – user19910 Oct 14 '20 at 10:12

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