Meditation isn’t about meditation pt. 2 - COTRUGLI
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Meditation isn’t about meditation pt. 2

“You are the still point of awareness around which the world spins. You are by ‘nature’ a peaceful being. In ‘essence’, you are a silent being, at the very ‘core’ of your being you are completely and utterly still.” So say most of the world’s wisdom paths. But right now, as the ‘world’ tells you of its various ills and woes it’s likely you feel far from being peaceful, being silent, and being still.

The purpose of meditation

The purpose of meditation is not to make a journey, not to work hard in some effortful inner endeavor, it is simply to restore awareness of the silent and still core that is you, know the peace that is your nature, and allow the love that is your purpose to emerge naturally from your heart without distortion. And in so doing the world loses its power to shake you.

Restoring awareness of your core

To some that sounds like giving up and doing nothing! But the purpose of meditation is not to do nothing, become passive, and give up all your outer responsibilities. It is to restore you to your true and natural inner state so that you can draw on the power that is your silence to discern with greater clarity what you need to do. It is to draw on the power of your peace to cut through the clamorous noise of the world around you that is constantly demanding your attention and your energy. And it is to listen with your ‘inner ear’ to the still small voice that is the wisdom of your heart. Everyone has that voice but few can hear it amidst the noise of incessant thinking and emotional turmoil.

The power of stillness

Meditation is a way of slowing and quietening the machinations of the monkey mind. But as we explored last week you are unlikely to do this until a) you’ve had enough of that clamorous world or b) your mind seems to be driving you crazy or c) you’re tired of your emotional exhaustion or d) you have had a small taste of the peace and the power of your being or e) you follow the still small voice at the core of you that invites you to sit down, be quiet and just listen.

While it sounds like there must be a right way to meditate, a ‘technique’ of meditation, there isn’t. There are always methods and techniques to fix processes, to drive vehicles, to operate machines, to ‘do’ things, but there is no technique, no method to ‘be’. In truth the question ‘how do you meditate’ is irrelevant. It is like asking ‘how do you be’ when you are already being and can never not be because you are always being! But you are not aware of ‘being’, and therefore not aware of the power and the peace of your being. And that is because your attention is almost totally lost in what you are thinking, feeling, and doing or on what others are doing, almost all the time.

The beginning of meditation: cultivating self-awareness

And that is why just becoming aware of your attention, and where it goes, is the beginning of meditation. Hence the simplest definition of meditation is the ‘cultivation of self-awareness’ which is another way of saying being aware of you the being… being!

Ultimately there are no ‘types’ of meditation because as soon as you label meditation with a ‘type’ it appears there are different ways or methods to meditate.

The illusion of meditation techniques

But there is only one way to be and it’s not a ‘way’, it’s just being. When meditation is typecast it also gives the impression that there are some ways that are superior to others, that there are better ways into being, but there aren’t really. There is simply a being that is aware of being, and nothing more is needed other than being aware when attention goes away from being, gets lost in ‘what’ is not the self while mistaking ‘it’ for the self. When that happens ‘being’ loses self-awareness and is trapped in ideas and images of the world, which usually begins with an idea and image of one’s body.

Returning to your true inner state

This can sound easy and obvious in theory but it is challenging to put into practice. Almost all the habits of attention that you have learned take you away from being aware of yourself and into the ideas and images of the world. And that is why you become vulnerable to any sudden and not-so-sudden chang77es in a world that is always and forever changing!

Learning to read the inner signs

When you do sit down to meditate by all means focus your eyes on a candle or a picture, but unless you go beyond your awareness of the candle/picture it’s nothing more than a short concentration exercise. Put some relaxing music on in the background, but unless you go beyond the sound so that you no longer hear it, it’s likely to be nothing more than pleasant relaxation. By all means, listen to a meditation commentary, but unless you, the self-aware being, actually goes where the commentary is pointing, assuming it’s pointing at your own being, it’s not much more than hypnosis. And by all means find that special place, but until all that becomes completely unspecial, ordinary and unnecessary then it is little more than a comfortable trap, and soon you, the being, will start to think that meditation is not possible, unless and until you are comfortable in your trap… However, while all of the above can be seen as good preparations for meditation, they should not be mistaken for meditation itself.

Embracing the silence within

In meditation, you are returning to the place where you always are without going anywhere or doing anything. In time, and with practice, this will eventually require no time and no practice, simply because a ‘pure being’ is beyond time and needs to do nothing in order to act appropriately and effectively! But in between here and there, between now and then, a combination of ideas (signposts) and a kind of inner effort is required. Not least the ‘seeing’ of what stops you being fully present where you are, what stops you from being aware of being the being that you are. Some initial guidance and signposts are as follows.

Learning to Read

Wouldn’t be wonderful if we could sit in meditation and just be. And when we are just being we would be at peace with ourselves and with the world. And sometimes, when you meditate, you will know this state, a state where you may even lose awareness of time and place. But of course, it’s momentary and in its place comes distraction in many forms, and that’s when attention is attracted and starts wandering. And this is where meditation is like reading.

When you look at the words on a page, when you look at those little black ‘letter’ symbols on a white background, they have no meaning, and make no sense, as long as they remain on the page. It’s only when you bring them into your consciousness and the single symbols (letters) form collective symbols (words and sentences) that you begin to ascribe meaning. You are the ascriber, and meaning is your ascription. Which of course is why five different people can attribute different meanings to the same collection of word symbols.

Cultivating Awareness to Transcend Distractions

As you learn to ‘read’ these inner signs you will begin to understand what is distracting you from truly being the being that you are. And then you will see how YOU get trapped in those thoughts/emotions etc, and as you get trapped in them you give them more power. Meditation happens when you don’t ‘go in’ but ‘pull out’ of what arises within consciousness. And the more you pull out the weaker they become until eventually they don’t arise.

Like reading a book and, in many ways, like watching a movie, all you have to do is sit quietly and watch what arises within your consciousness. If you can do that without resisting or empowering whatever arises you will start to see why you have created and are creating those mental and emotional distractions in the first place. You will start to see what their presence ‘means’. You will see exactly why they are distracting the peace of your being, you will see how they cloud and skew your ability to make good decisions, and you will see how they can make you vulnerable to the changing world around you.

Understanding the inner landscape

A very small sample of what can you expect to see arise within your consciousness and what they mean are as follows.

You will see thoughts arising that are agitative. Controlling, judgmental, and critical thoughts mean you are still carrying and holding onto a belief that it’s your job to fix others and the world which, when seen in the light of meditation, is clearly nonsense. You may feel the emotions of shame and guilt arising frequently, which means you are still holding onto a belief that you are a bad person who does bad things. This also becomes nonsense as soon as you glimpse the heart of your heart, which you will realize is a source of love and joy in the world and that it can never be diminished only suppressed. And gradually what were emotional tsunamis, sucking up your energy, which is YOU, subside to occasional ripples across the surface of your consciousness. Until they are no more.

So as you watch what arises you will see much non-sense. And you will notice how it keeps you trapped in a jungle of thoughts and emotions that constitute misery to some degree or other. You will also begin to notice that while certain people and situations seem to ‘trigger’ your emotional disturbances they don’t ‘cause’ them. And if you ‘notice’ this so the habit of blaming will atrophy – always a good measure of how your meditation is deepening your awareness of you and a good measure that means your meditation is working.

Beyond thoughts and emotions: discovering pure being

When you practice meditation you are really practicing being aware of what is getting your attention and being attentive to what is filling your awareness. And as you do you will see all that is not you, but seems to be you. In other words, you are not the thoughts, emotions, beliefs, perceptions, or attitudes that arise within you. They arise, they are there, they are your creation, but they are not you. The storms of negative thoughts can rage, and the winds of emotion can sweep through your consciousness in a second. They appear and then they disappear, and when the self sees the ultimate powerlessness of such patterns the self ceases to empower them, allowing them to die away, leaving peace and tranquillity, beauty and harmony to emerge. Until one day, they also remain. That’ll be today!

An exercise

Question: What are the three main thought/emotion patterns that arise within your consciousness?

Reflection: On what belief do you think they have their roots?

Action: Find a quiet corner, allow 15 minutes, sit and relax your body, rest your gaze gently on something in front of you, withdraw your attention from everything around you, and just watch whatever thoughts are passing through your mind, be aware of whatever you are feeling, name the feeling, if your attention drifts bring it back and start again, be aware that you are the one who is aware, watch for a deeper peace arising from within you, allow it come, and as it does watch out for thoughts that come to distract you from it, don’t go with them, just watch them. Notice it is you the being that is just being, don’t try to see yourself, just be aware of awareness, allow yourself to just be at peace if the urge comes to do something just watch it and give it permission to pass, and just be.

Written by our professor Mike George