Here’s a paradox in meditation that bugs me sometimes:

On one hand, human beings are basically slight permutations of the same exact thing. We’re made of the same materials from the same instructions with only slight alterations. Certainly, we have different life experiences, but we’re all working with pretty much the same stuff. It stands to reason that, over countless generations, we would have figured out some ways of using these tools we all have that more or less work. That’s what the teachings about meditation are, it would seem — tried and true methods for wrangling this steed that is the human body-mind complex and riding it through life.

On the other hand, each of us is the foremost expert on our own minds that has ever existed and will ever exist for the rest of history. The exterior life of every human being can be summed up pretty simply, but the inner life is outrageously complex in radically different ways. The phantasmagoria of mental forms that fills a single moment can feel more vast than an entire day of external experience. Sure, we share many common forms of experience — we share common forms of eyeballs, too — but we can describe our eyeballs down to the molecular level of detail, yet we can try for hours to describe the quality of our experience and still have no idea whether someone has any clue what it’s like to be us. Even our own minds will seem wildly different tomorrow. So how can anyone else know what it takes to be present with my mind?

We can’t be sure. “Just come back to your breath,” the teachers say, “and the insight will work itself out,” and all we can do is trust them.

Hey, wait. What if trusting is actually the part that works?