One of the unique aspects of learning Recollective Awareness is that the instructions are minimal, and they tend to be “descriptive,” as opposed to “prescriptive.” In other words, the teacher is not prescribing a behavior, such as following the breath, and stating that as a result, “You will have the following kind of experience—usually peaceful.” The approach in Recollective Awareness is more like, “Practice sitting, and after a time you may want to follow your breath, and you will probably have a variety of experiences.” The difference is fairly significant, and I think one that can help improve our meditation.
The significant aspect for me is that in Recollective Awareness the authority of one’s experience is the meditator, not the teacher. This only makes sense since it’s the meditator having the experience. The problem is that many of us have been taught that certain kinds of experience, such as wandering thoughts or drowsiness, are “wrong” when meditating, so when they occur we try to change them. In essence we are trying to change something that probably won’t change—it’s the nature of our thinking to have times when it wanders. So now as we meditate we’re continuing to feel “less than,” we’re not having the experience we’re supposed to. And if we’re in a group, all we have to do is look around at the others who are sitting perfectly still—they must be experiencing bliss!– and know that we certainly aren’t having that experience. We’re falling short again.
Recollective Awareness addresses these issues, and provides a gentler way to meditate.