Thursday, November 19, 2015

Going Back To Basics

In the search for the pathless path towards greater awakening, sometimes we find that much is gained by going back to the basics of meditation. The search, particularly if it is done through the Jnana path (the path of wisdom and self-inquiry) can often lead to frustration as we periodically discover that we have again missed the mark, or question whether we have moved at all in our spiritual quest. And what is this quest all about anyway?

purity of the lotus flower represents the pratice of meditation

The other day, I went through a simple exercise which brought me to an awareness that everything is all right just the way it is: I am all right just where I am. And the striving, and the frustration that results from ego involvement in the awakening process, is perhaps the very thing that must fall by the wayside. What I found most surprising about this simple exercise is that it contains nothing that I did not know before. I learned nothing new, yet it was renewing. I would like to take you through this simple exercise. 

First, sit comfortably in a relaxed but alert position, back straight. Prop yourself up with pillows if necessary. Allow the ordinary preoccupations of the day to settle down and subside. Look around you. Is the place familiar to you? If not, no matter. Begin to cultivate a sense of yourself as being present in that place. You are here in this one space. The world, and everything else in it, the sensible world, is outside you, around you.

As you close your eyes, direct your attention to your body. What sensations are you aware of: breath, heartbeat, feelings in your back and backside as it presses against the chair or floor? Visualize your breath flowing into your nostrils down the center cavity of your body, down to the bottom and up again. Tie your consciousness to your breath and pay attention to the circular flow of the breath (down, around, up).  If you pay further attention, you'll catch a glimpse of something deeper, two things:
  • The experience (the muscle sensation of movements)
  • And the “I” that is experiencing it.

Now along with the muscle sensation of movement (the experience) also note the river of thoughts, images, emotions that are probably coursing through the front of your mind.  You may try to stop this mental chatter, but you will probably fail. All these thoughts, images, memories, ideas, plans, whatever, will continue whether you choose to let it or not. This is how the mind functions. But now again, observe two things: First, this functioning of the mind (images, memories, ideas, thoughts, plans) as the experience, and subtly in the background, the “I” that is experiencing them. As you continue, the most intimate feelings and desires will occasionally be there like images on a screen, accompanied by the “I” experiencing, watching, as they pass by.

If you can remain in this quiet, relaxed but alert state, you may gain a deeper awareness of a sense of something very small growing in you — the experiencer.  Even though this “something small” has no volition or power of its own, it quietly observes and experiences all that passes by. If you look for this “something small” observer, you will find that it continually recedes further and further away.  There is no limit to this “I” that experiences. St. Francis of Assisi is noted as saying in this regard: “What you are looking for is what is looking.”

the rising sun, purity of the lotus flower represents the pratice of meditation

There’s a sacredness, a blissfulness, associated with this phenomena of looking for that which is looking, intuitively touching the experiencer. Once this blissfulness, sacredness is tapped into, one gains a sense of “presence” which can be known by many names. Some call it “Kingdom of God,” the light, wisdom, still or zero point. All these terms reveal different aspects of this Primordial Self, the experiencer.

An experienced meditator may be able to enter into this exercise with little difficulty. The biggest problem, however, one even an experienced meditator may continue to have, is maintaining this vigilance to his/her inner sacredness outside of meditation, which is most of the time. Pains in the body, past regrets, worries about the future, aimless daydreaming, endless striving, everyday pre-occupations and planning constantly interfere, acting as a whirlwind to keep us absorbed in the illusions of life that hide our True Selves like rain clouds hide the sun. The simple exercise of meditation is the only avenue to overcoming these obstacles.

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