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Meditation isn’t about meditation pt. 1
Why meditation isn’t about meditation? They say you will only start to practice meditation when the time is right for you. And everyone’s moment to begin is, of course, different. The awareness of the value and the increase in the practice of meditation has grown alongside the pace of change and rising levels of stress over the last two decades. And yet, it seems very few will leave the average meditation seminar or course and determinedly build meditation practice into their day-to-day life. Many would like to because they are attracted by the idea and its promise. But they are not prepared to transfer their time and attention away from something that they still perceive as ‘more important’. They are likely to be addicted to action.
Consciously cultivating self-awareness
Some experience some fairly quick results like increased relaxation and a quieter mind. But as they continue, they find many thoughts and feelings arising from their subconscious that are not so pleasant and quickly return to the distractions of the ‘world’ to avoid those feelings. Then there are those who realize meditation is not just something else to be ‘done’, not something ‘extra’ to be fitted into their daily routine. Although they don’t really understand the mechanics and mechanisms of meditation, they intuitively know it is a beneficial practice, and being patient with their impatience is necessary! They realize meditation is just a word for a process that is better described as ‘consciously cultivating self-awareness,’ not self-consciousness as in self-obsession, but self-awareness as in seeing and understanding one’s true nature and exactly what is blocking it.
With patient and persistent practice, they will translate the ideas and theories of meditation practice into personal insight and realization. And as they do, they will likely notice a marked deepening of inner peace, an ability to tolerate situations and people that before seemed intolerable, and an acceptance of the world the way it is instead of trying to ‘fix it’. They will eventually see meditation isn’t about meditation; it’s about being aware of the unseen seer that sees, it’s about knowing that the knower who seems to know, doesn’t! And eventually, they realize meditation has only one destination which is not in time or space, not there or then, not even being here and now, but just… being. And when that inner state is recovered, all action, all ‘doing,’ that flows from that state of being creates harmony in the world.
Along the way, the practicing meditator can expect, but should not desire, to also ‘see’ i.e. realize the following.
You are not your mind
While you have a mind, you are not your mind. What appears on your mind is a reflection of the world. And just as a reflection on a mirror is not real but just a reflection of the world, so what appears on your mind is not the deepest reality. You are the deepest reality, and all that shows up on your mind is just a series of images, ideas, memories, and concepts. All come to pass, and pass they do! All are as insubstantial as the clouds in the sky behind which the sun is always shining. Similarly, the reality of the ‘real self’ lies behind the clouds of ideas and thoughts that may appear on the mind. Suffering begins when the self believes it is the thoughts and ideas that are on the mind. This is often referred to as attachment.
Your ‘karma’ is simply your attachment to your memories
The word karma is used in many ways, so its meaning is often lost. Essentially, it is the self-attaching to past actions, filtering the world through those memories and allowing decisions and actions in the present to be skewed by those actions of the past. As your self-awareness grows through the practice of meditation, you will notice how the past plays a significant role in your day-to-day thinking and decision-making. You will start to see that actions of the past are memories that act as filters and lenses within your consciousness, keeping you stuck in habits of perceiving and thinking and therefore doing.. Acting from illusion is out of sync with what is real, resulting in discomfort and the ‘attraction’ of events and circumstances that are not too pleasant.
The world out there is not as it seems because it’s not ‘out there’
As you learn to look inwards, you will gradually become aware that the ‘real’ world is not out there, it’s in here, and that you create the world that seems to be ‘out there’ in here, according to your state of being. You will notice that when your mood is negative, then whatever you bring into your consciousness from the world out there you will create according to that mood. That’s why sometimes you like being with another person even when they are not so pleasant, while at other times you can’t stand being around them. It’s not them, it’s you. It’s the way you create them in yourself that is the cause of their being tolerable one minute and intolerable the next. Obviously, when this is fully realized by the self and is no longer just another idea, it has huge potential to transform the quality of your life.
The world inside and out is simply a play of light and color
In meditation, you will come to see and know yourself as you really are, as consciousness and not form, as ‘self’ and not the body you occupy. From identification with the form we occupy comes labels and boundaries. When all labels upon which we invested our identity fall away, all division ends. Eventually, all desire dissolves, and sadness becomes impossible because there is in truth ‘nothing’ that you can possess so there is ‘no thing’ you can lose. And so the wars in your mind, where all wars begin, come to an end. And you realise your form, like your home, is but a temporary dwelling, like your car, it is your vehicle, it is not you.
The idea of peace is not peace and peace treaties are irrelevant
As it becomes easier to see life as a play of light and colour, a series of passing scenes and multidimensional dramas played out by those who still believe ‘things’ are important, you will notice your true nature re-emerging into your awareness. And you will see and feel that peace is not something separate from you, it’s no longer a neat idea, it is what you are. Not the peace that can appear at the end of an argument, a peace that defines a treaty between two warring parties. But a real deep, powerful peacefulness, that lives at the very core of your being. You will notice that only when that peace is present is it possible for true love to emerge like a shy and hesitant child into the light of your awareness.
Nothing real ever changes
In time, with practice, you will see through all that changes and realize that there is a deeper reality within you that never changes. That deeper reality is you. You will be able to sit quietly and watch the world around you ‘out there’ change and not be affected by it. You will see others’ behaviors changing, and not be affected by it. Nothing will affect you because you realize it is what is meant to be in that moment. Then you will know yourself as you are, the one who observes everything except yourself. You will notice there is a game called change, otherwise known as life, happening around you. It’s just a game and you are both in the audience and on the stage. Because you realize it’s just a game, a brilliantly scripted play, nothing will surprise you, and you will no longer have any preferences.
And in that moment, you might ‘feel’ as if you have come home.
Between where you are now and that moment, there is likely to be a battle with your addiction to your emotions. You will fight and resist many of these ideas above, believing life will be boring, empty, and almost flatlining if you are just watching, just being at peace, just observing life come and go. You will likely interpret the ‘ideas’ within these kinds of insights as a threat to your ’emotional drugs,’ to the ups and downs which seem to be a ‘natural’ part of living. It’s only when you’ve had enough of them, that you are likely to sit down and seriously explore something called meditation. Only then will you begin to see and feel the benefit in cultivating self-awareness, in sitting in a state of quiet reflection, in being more and doing less, in seeing how you create all your discomforts.
And that’s why the ‘moment’ you sit down, be quiet and surrender to becoming more self-aware will be the sane moment that ceases to be indifferent to your own suffering.
Question: Which of the above realizations/insight do you feel you recognize and understand most clearly, and which one is the ‘greyest’?
Reflection: What do you sense stops you from building some regular meditation/reflection into your life – what is your inner addiction?
Action: Stop for three minutes three times a day this week and just watch.
Written by our professor Mike George