Milarepa, the Tibetan sage, warns us that ‘The concentration of inward quiet induces lassitude’. This is one of the dangers in the practice of meditation, that of quietism, of becoming so passive that meditation can have as persuasive a hold as any drug. It is, in psychological terms, the call of the womb, inviting us to regress, to become a baby once more. Within such a cocoon we feel safe. Spiritually and psychologically it is a call that must be resisted.
Among alien surroundings, among people to whom we do not immediately respond, it is dangerously easy to withdraw into this inward quiet. Some people use it as a conscious technique in difficult encounters, as a way of avoiding confrontation. All such temptations must be put aside. When we are alone we may withdraw, but in the company of others we must always be present to their needs, alert to act, ready to be shaped – even disturbed – by events.
Above all we have to be ready to risk upheaval within ourselves. True meditation should result in a deepening awareness of others, a quickness to sense and respond before even a word is said. Being present to another is what the Buddha describes as compassion for all sentient beings.