Mystic Gateways

There and back with meditation.

Tom Leworthy in the garden
garden

Now, where did I go . . .

While at an MBS Fair at Birmingham over the weekend I got chatting to another exhibitor about the benefits of meditation, and it's long term effects and practices. Even though I have done a lot of meditation, I no longer practice it, preferring another method of Direct Awareness, which only takes 2 minutes but has a lasting and powerful effect. Anyway, this person had been diligently practicing for a number of years and was wondering whether they were on the right track, and what more might develop. In my own experience, based on Buddhist meditation practices, I can only add a few comments.

The first stage of meditation starts with a withdrawal from the world, to be alone to experience on a sensory level what is happening to, and in, your body and mind ~ just observing. Thoughts will arise, and if you just observe them without getting involved by following or pursueing the thoughts, imaginings, and scenarios, you will find that they come and go all the time, as if they have a life of their own. Through quiet practice you can now discern different levels, or areas, of attention. There are sensations and feelings (which may or may not be part of memories), and thoughts, speculations, and conclusions (which may be related to your experience, or intentions). At this stage, you are looking at all your thoughts, without getting involved. Not so easy, but being still in mind and body helps. It might also occur to you that meditation is not about sitting around with a blank mind.

This is not about separating, classifying, or stopping, these activities, but simply observing them and letting them be, to rise and fall as they will on their own, seemingly without your permission or control. After some time 'doing this', you will start to 'empty your mind' and introduce a focus. In meditation there are techniques or ways of 'doing this', which include concentrating on a single thing, or on the breath. This "One-Pointed Focus" has certain benefits or effects. By taking charge of your centre of attention all other discursive thoughts start to fade. Saying that, you will find that there are lots of things out there and 'in there' to distract your mind and move its' attention to everything else that's going on.
So, this is some discipline to acquire.

A note here about the energy you will be using, in the notions, states, or actions, requiring effort or ease. There is a correct use of energy that is essential, otherwise you will defeated by your own mind and long practice. It is as if there is a default setting which you must switch off before you can continue. You may know about this, or come across it in meditation, but the introductory chapters of "TAO I CHING ~ The Mystic Gateway" will explain it all. This different kind of energy is a blend of intention and focus which is NOT based on earthly or natural impulses, desires, status, or satisfaction, or, indeed, to attain or achieve anything ~ but to simply express, appreciate, or observe. It has a certain ease or 'quiet joy' when the energy is right (manifested in meditation, and in normal life). The opposite is, of course, effort, struggle (discomfort), or conflict, and the reason I no longer practice 'meditation'.

At this point you are practicing for many months, usually years, sitting with back straight, holding your attention on the breath, and using or experiencing your energy in a sort of 'holding' way, which becomes, for short periods, easy, without effort. In prolonged periods of meditation physical discomfort will arise, and to this end there are barriers to be overcome.

This introduces another aspect of meditation in the control, discipline, and perseverance, of the physical body. There is no debate here on the value of this, since all ‘serious’ meditators have to overcome the same physical barriers. Holding a stance in the same position for long periods will cause strain, and if your sessions require this, it is something you will have to deal with. I would argue that the body should always be comfortable (but not, of course, indulged or satisfied) in order to ‘let it go’. 'Over-coming the physical' is not something I would care to take-on, and prefer to 'let the body be' (comfortable), and, in some sense, ignored, rather than controlled. In my own case, the long periods of meditation ‘to achieve something’ became a habit, and obsession, which I now approach with a totally different view.

For many, the ‘rightness’ of approach becomes an issue, while the main objective remains the same, in the letting go of the body and mind (thoughts and impulses).
This is the second stage of meditation, and it's taken a while to get this far.

The third stage of meditation is an ‘effortlessness’ that develops. You can’t practice it ~ it creeps up on you. Distractions, restlessness, or rigidity, are slowly put to rest. That ‘effortlessness’ provides extra benefits in a sort of ‘detached quiet’ (carried over from your meditation into your everyday life), and a 'compassion' (without the need for reaction). You are no longer totally involved, or concerned, with desires and thoughts, and you can see them (they are still there) for what they are. In this third stage of meditation is the Buddhist concept of 'mindfulness'. This is another side-effect in your unexpected and enhanced awareness of objects and things, places, and people, conditions of weather and light. You begin to find yourself in a world that is wonderfully sustaining. You see, feel, and know, the wonder of being here, and you are surrounded by 'ten thousand things'. [ In my own case further fascinating complications were introduced through the side effect of 'Lucid Dreaming'].

This awareness of "Being Here" could develop naturally through expanded awareness, and at rare times everyone might experience the sensation, if only for a brief magical moment. Regular meditation practice develops into a sort of habit of mind and heart, which will automatically provide a deeper sense of peace and clarity (not normally present in the world). What arises is an inner quiet, or inner peace, as an inner strength.

In the forth stage of meditation, something else happens, and is the cause of a lot of mystical speculation and introduces notions of 'levels of attainment' and prolonged practices, which could become either a singular obsession, or a disincentive to those that think they will never get there (without a lot of practice). When you let go of the five senses, while noticing (focusing on) your breath, and when you let go of the breath, you enter a peaceful state, without a body or personality, in silent awareness and become aware of a "blissful state of inner light" {not exactly this, but it'll give you some idea}. Attempts to gain this, as a sort of end result, will lead you into all sorts of diversions and practices. This 'enlightened' state can happen naturally when you quietly persist with meditation, but it can also be 'an impossible dream' if you persist too much, or give up. Even so, a profound state of awareness and compassion becomes almost second nature, with the 'side effect' of great faith, or trust, and inner peace.

That's meditation for you. I would prefer to stay in the world (illusion or not) and gain an immediate experience through The Four Gateways of Light, Sound, Movement, and Space. Either way, there is a jewel to be found, which the Buddhists might call Wisdom or Insight.

  What happens then is a spiritual transformation.