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Meditation is Not What You Think

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Shining Bay Writings

Meditation is Not What You Think

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Meditation, our natural state, is like the blue sky that peeks through from behind the passing clouds of thought. Perhaps unknowingly, everyone meditates including chidren. In fact, children tend to be far more in the Present than adults - more in wordless contact with the Existence. Once we learn a language, words create a subtle barrier to direct perception. We see a flower and think "That is a poppy" often dismissing it with a mere definition. We frequently miss the particular living flower before us that has no name. "Lest we become like little children, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." Meditation is a return to fresh eyes, beyond the veil of thought.


Verbs imply action - for example, I am walking, etc. When we use the verb 'to meditate' then to describe the very absence of action, this confuses many people. They think they have to DO something in meditation. We're so habituated to 'thinking and doing' as a response to life, we have forgotten what it is simply to 'be'. So why be surprised, when we sit quietly, to find that the force of our thought process inevitably rises up - it has been fuelled by constant repetition. Yet when thought subsides, if only for a few seconds, whether we notice it or not, meditation has happened and for those few precious moments, we have resumed our meditative state which is our very nature. Meditation is a state beyond the reach of word and thought. Perhaps we may sit still, but we cannot coerce a butterfly to alight on us; so also, meditation cannot be coerced-- we can only set the stage and let go.


Let all 'trying' go in your meditation. Trying is effort and meditation is effortlessness. And effortlessness is liberation. We cannot coerce our thoughts to stop arising by act of will. Will is the very genesis of doing while meditation is the essence of non-participatory passivity. Therefore, effort cannot result in meditation--it only brings strain.

Taking it further, I'd say meditation goes beyond both opposites of doing and non-doing. Once a disciple came to his master and said, "I have finally come to the place in my meditation where there is just nothing," and the master replied, "Now throw that 'nothing' also." Meditation is the ultimate let-go. If one stops stirring the dust with one's feet, eventually all the dust settles down. Similarly, when we stop stirring up the dust of thought, eventually, the stream of thought slows down and stops by itself naturally like the snow in a snow globe. These periodic blissful blanks between thoughts, when nothing is happening, is meditation. It is the blissful state. Repeated practice lengthens these precious timeless gaps.


Observe--a thought arises by itself. If you don't involve yourself in it, it soon recedes. Instead, we tend to grab and hold onto that thought. We identify with it - my thought - we repeat it and charge it with a lot of feeling. We make an investment in it, thus strengthening it and then when we want it to go away, we can't understand why it persists. A good thing to realize is that since it was you who engaged with it in the first place, it can also be you who can withdraw your energy/attention from it. It may arise again and again, depending on how much energy has been invested in that thought through repetition, identification and feeling. Be patient.

I once had a teaching dream illustrative of this. In the dream, I was surrounded by some rather threatening dogs. I would feed them and they'd go away for a time, but they'd again come back, more menacing than before, to bother me. Finally, I heard a clear voice saying, "Stop feeding the dogs!" It was a revelation. These dogs, I perceived in a flash, represented worrisome thoughts. They come around and if we feed them, of course, they keep coming back. Just remember, "DON'T FEED THE DOGS!"


It sometimes appears when we sit for meditation that things are actually becoming worse, not better. We notice a sore spot or some stiffness here, snippets of an old argument there or some unpleasant unresolved emotion rushes to the surface. We need to recognize that regardless of the surge of thoughts, something good is happening here. Sometimes, we've been holding some painful thoughts at bay and as soon as we sit, they all come tumbling in on us. Know that it is one's inherently wise mind/body's way of eliminating something harmful or unpleasant that is hampering our innate peace. Because one has come into a more relaxed state, the nervous system cleverly chooses that opportune moment to release that which is foreign to it, much like when falling asleep after being very stressed, we may let go with a full body twitch. It is our chance at that precise moment to let it go. Nothing wrong is happening, we are just witnessing the intelligent workings of our nervous system as it shoos out something that has been tying up energy in our system and we are re-experiencing it as it leaves us. Just let it go.


image of a group of people

In meditation, anything that is not inherently natural and life-supporting comes up to be released. There is an amazing inbuilt self-cleansing function, a rebooting, self-healing effect that we are gifted with that is a huge ally in the journey back to ourselves. Many of us ignore, deny, stuff down and sweep under the rug accumulated debris from the unfinished business of living and then spend more time defending this pile of garbage. Meditation is the supreme method for unloading this psychic junkpile simply by allowing it to off-gas by itself by means of the most ridiculously simple method--just sitting down quietly, doing nothing and basically just opening the bag to allow one thought at a time to be dissolved in the purifying fire of awareness. No manipulation required - just a gentle acceptance and benevolent indifference.


There are many techniques, but only ONE meditation. A technique serves only as a diving board, meditation being the pool. Understand the difference. Like a boat that ferries you to the other shore where you leave it with no more need for it, a meditation technique is a way to bring us to the brink of meditation. When the actual meditative state happens, everything disappears including the technique, and we only pick it up again if we find ourselves back in the land of thought. Meditation is not what you think! It is beyond words and thoughts - the blissful silence of being.


Shopping around endlessly doesn't work. Shallow holes yield little gold. Give any technique three months to practice before deciding whether it suits you or not. The ultimate technique, of course, is no technique at all, but, it seems, that is meant only for a few. It's helpful to drop the idea that only sitting meditation constitutes 'meditation'. Meditation can happen at any time. Invite that meditative quality into your every action and soon you will see that every moment is an opportunity to manifest it. However, a regular sitting meditation practice is invaluable in learning to return to the Self.

Published in The Source Magazine, Halifax, 2008, and Tone Magazine, Ottawa, 2008

© 2008 Divya Prabha
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