“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” – Deepak Chopra –
Over the last week we’ve posted descriptions of meditation and a few meditative techniques. (see below). Today we will discuss what you should look for and explore in meditation.
Meditation is much more complex than it appears on the surface. Beneath the calm resting outward demeanor of the meditator a storm can be raging. If you have tried meditation at all then you’re well aware of this. I love the ocean metaphor of meditation. On the surface there may be storms and turbulence, but go just a few yards below the surface and everything is calm, peaceful, and deep. This is how you should view meditation. Let the storms rage on the surface, but look into the depths.
One of the first things that you should notice in your meditation is the fact that no matter how hard you try the mind wanders off, not just a few times, but repeatedly meditation after meditation, day after day, week after week, etc. There is a tremendous insight here just waiting to be noticed and that is that you cannot control your mind. When given a very simple task to do, simply follow the breath, perhaps with counting, over a very brief period of time, you find that it is almost impossible to do. Reflect on this fact. It is very important and the beginning of the wisdom that emerges from meditation.
Think about it; you cannot control your mind! An implication of this is that it is not under your control. Well, then who or what is controlling it? After a while it begins to dawn on you that the mind is simply the operation of the brain, a biological entity that has been programmed by experience and the genes. Viewing the mind is no different than viewing a computer screen and the operation of this very complex electronic entity. When you’re meditating, you’re just watching your internal computer doing its thing.
Look then at what you’re trying to do when you attempt to control your mind in meditation. You’re asking your mind to control your mind. You’re trying to use an uncontrollable entity to control an uncontrollable entity. No wonder you repeatedly fail. You’re watching the uncontrollable surface of the ocean. You need to go deeper!
Note that we’ve been saying that you cannot control the mind, that you’re watching your own biological computer at work, and that you need to go deeper. Look at this statement. Think about it. What is the “you” that is trying to control, that is looking, that is trying to go deeper. Think about Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment“ and ask yourself what is it that’s paying attention. In fact as who or what is doing the asking.
It should be becoming evident that there is something much deeper than the mind. The mind is just the surface turbulence. The true “you” is simply aware of all this froth. It is not the froth. It is the ocean of awareness. Later you’ll come to see that the ocean of awareness also contains the surface and the whitecaps. But for now, separate them and look simply at what’s looking, what’s hearing, what’s feeling, what’s noticing the thoughts. Spend time in meditation just doing this. Look for what’s looking.
You’ll note that you can’t find what’s looking. It’s like a camera trying to take a picture of itself, a microphone trying to hear itself. What you can do is get a sense of it. You can feel its presence by noting that no matter what is going on, its calm presence is always there simply observing, being aware. Note that it is just watching and aware of the present moment. It’s just aware of sights, sounds, feelings, thoughts, rising up and falling away, coming and going. This is what you should be looking for in meditation; not what’s being perceived, but what’s doing the perceiving. When you are able to do this you are now becoming aware of what the “you” truly is, what “you” really are.
Abide there! Spend time there, even though your mind takes you away again and again, hundreds of times. Just keep coming back. Be entranced and amazed by the presence that is your true self.
“Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in eternal awareness or pure consciousness.” – Swami Sivananda
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/
In prior posts we discussed the preliminaries for meditation
Breath Meditation http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/23/208/
Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) practice http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/26/meditation-techniques-loving-kindness-meditation/
And Body Scan Meditation http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/27/meditation-techniques-body-scan-meditation/