Guided Meditation or Not. Be Still with Self or Listen to Guidance.

Guided Meditation or Not – An Article by Benjamin Dean

Guided Meditation or Not
Mount Rainier visible from Seattle Highway

There is a wide range of us out there meditating, from beginners to those who have been meditating for years. Meditation is essentially about getting in touch with one’s inner, deeper and most natural self. Which approach to meditation is most likely to help us along this path?

Is it guided meditation or not? Let me clarify what I mean when I refer to the most natural self. The most natural self would have a conscious awareness that is free. Free from an accumulation of facts, mental frameworks and what we so often call “knowledge” that has a tendency to bog awareness down. To drop all this would allow us to recover our original sense of wonder.

I believe that wonder is the whole point. The level of life appreciation and gratitude that comes with wonder is unsurpassed. After all, we cannot approach each moment anew unless we clear the mind of all assumption and presumption. The folks who have been meditating for years might just have well started meditating today.

Guided Meditation or Not

The difference between guided meditation or not (i.e. unguided meditation) is pretty obvious. In the case of guided meditation one allows oneself to be guided by an outside source via media (a recorded voice). In the case of unguided meditation there is no real directive. One simply meditates freely. We should also consider music a form of guidance. Music is powerful and can draw us in to its mood. Though there is practically no agenda, there is still a regulated scope, range and directive.

Music is wonderful. Guided meditation may well be good for starters as it has a shape that can be followed. There is a strong sense of accomplishment with guided meditation as there is an obvious path and end-point. There is no confusion about the goal. We complete the meditation and feel the results. The unknown plays very little part in guided meditation. The benefits are clear. We feel relaxed and more deeply grounded. It is rejuvenating and restores health. Still, what if we want more? What if we feel there is much more to recover?

Guided Meditation or Not – Mother Nature

I use the term “unguided” meditation to distinguish it from “guided” meditation. However, in truth, unguided meditation has its own form of guidance. Unguided meditation is not as easily done, for one. We have to strip away all motive in order to engage fully in unguided meditation. It is guided,  but not by ourselves. Unguided meditation is guided by the unknown and its expression as organic and raw nature. There is a special purity to it.

Human beings will never manage to artificially emulate nature. It is impossible. Nature is far too complex and integrated. The wisdom of nature cannot be duplicated. It is itself only. Our bodies are a beautiful example of its incredible wisdom in biological expression. Our very lives as individual creatures is due to Mother Nature. Meditating freely allows nature to do its best work. This is true regardless of whether it is healing or simply moving us along our path.

Guided Meditation or Not – Watching

In unguided meditation we simply sit. I say sit but we just as readily walk (or do anything for that matter). The point is that there is no point. There is plenty of paradox present in unguided meditation. It is not a simple task to let go of motive. After all we are sitting (or doing whatever) in meditation for the purpose of meditating. The whole thing begins with purpose, so how are we to let go of motive? The unknown will take the place of motive if we accept it.

Here are a few pitfalls to watch out for. It is much easier to fall asleep while doing unguided meditation. There is no shame in this but know that it is not the same as meditation. Zoning out and losing track of yourself is the same— not a big deal but not to be confused with meditation. Meditation is about remaining alert and aware.

Guided Meditation or Not – Staying Alert

Guided meditation can be likened to watching television. The distraction is likely to be far more positive that television programming but it is still a program and one loses contact with self. When I use the term “self” here I speak of a self that is far deeper than the ego. I speak of pure awareness. The term “self” can be confusing for it is readily used to refer to both the individual and the deeper self.

To continue with unguided meditation sit still and do nothing. In zen practice this is called Zazen which is just sitting. The mind will engage and you will start thinking. One of your first series of thoughts will likely be about how ridiculous it is to be sitting still doing nothing. As you let go of these doubts and commit once again to meditating the thoughts will change. Try to acknowledge the thoughts. Allow yourself to be aware of the thoughts.

Guided Meditation or Not – Paradox

This is an important step as it differentiates you from your thoughts. There is the thinker and the thought. Focus on the thinker. Stripped of thought this thinker is your deeper self— pure awareness. As you might have suspected it is this stripping oneself of thoughts that is the most formidable obstacle. This is the goal and yet it can only be achieved by not trying to achieve it. Phew!

Spend a few focused thoughts choosing to think about not doing anything. Entertain the absurdity of letting go of motive. See clearly that trying to let go of motive is a motive itself. Just spend some time looking at all this. As you may have guessed we have not yet got to the unguided part of the unguided meditation. We must persevere— without persevering of course.

Guided Meditation or Not – Beyond Thought

As you sit still looking deeply at the problem and the absurdity of it all— a feeling of clarity will emerge. What occurs is a synthesis of the two opposites. Motive and lack of motive come together as one. They are both the same problem— thought. This will get you in touch with feelings. Motive and will have a feeling associated with them— a tension.

Guided meditation can certainly relax you but without you fully knowing about it. In the case of unguided meditation you are absolutely aware and alert AND relaxed all at the same time. We are inching our way towards bliss here. There is tremendous joy in this awareness. There is a great wonder and simplicity present in this. It feels incredible and that is why they call it bliss.

Guided Meditation or Not – Joy

Just a glimpse of this is all you need. Stick with it until you get this first real tangible glimpse of bliss. The thoughts are relentless until you look closely at them and differentiate yourself from them. The boredom can be unbearable until you look at it squarely in the face and realize it is fear— not boredom. Your ego is arguing its value and pointing out how much you need it. Don’t listen to it.

If you are patient it will become more about feelings and sensations than thoughts. When this happens you are making real progress. Your time meditating is spent working out old emotional aches and pains that have no name— though they will often be accompanied by images of the past. This is good. Keep working. You will feel lighter and more alive every time you meditate and let go of more ghosts.

These are ghosts of thought and ghosts of identity and ego. Keep moving through them. This all happens naturally. You are in unguided meditation territory now. Nature is healing you. Your very own nature is expelling toxins and grief. Nature is restoring joy and wonder where it belongs. You are a vibrant and alive being that can see possibility in everything. Life equals joy. They are the same thing.

The Art of Allowing. How to Move Past a Resistance to What Is

The Art of Allowing – An Article by Benjamin Dean

The Art of Allowing

The art of allowing things to be as they are seems like the easiest thing to do, but it is instead a fine behavioral art. One could argue that “what is” simply takes place whether we allow it or not. After all, things are the way they are. There is no denying that whatever is, is. However the “art of allowing what is” can alter “what is” beginning with the part that involves our acceptance of “what is”. What changes is not however limited to acceptance. Actual events and circumstances can change dramatically through our accepting.

The Art of Allowing and Acceptance

Acceptance is powerful. Resistance is also powerful. Our energies are divided when we resist. How can we be effective or creative without a point of entry? A point of entry is our connection to “what is”. In order for us to be effective and make a difference energetically and substantially in our lives we must first be in touch with and connected to what is actually going on. The deeper our acceptance, the stronger our point of entry.

There are those who call this present-tense and simple awareness “mindfulness”. It is an apt term for when we practice the art of allowing what is, we are being mindful of the moment for all that dwells there. Practicing mindfulness, we exclude nothing. Practicing mindfulness we approach life effortlessly. Once again, actual events are altered through our allowing and acceptance. This occurs out of the change we make within ourselves on the level of disposition. Our disposition has a shape and we attract according to this shape.

Behavior Integrates or Disintegrates on Form

The shape of our disposition and feelings dynamically relates to our surroundings and alters our point of entry. We find ourselves equipped for a different set of circumstances by how we feel about those circumstances. When we alter ourselves through acceptance we set the stage for a new circumstantial shape. It is not by projecting an outcome as an end, and it is not by carrying pictures of some proposed reality.

When we project images of what we desire we project out of fear. Desire is the fear on not getting what we need. When we find ourselves allowing what is, we instead find ourselves naturally and organically evolving in an integral way with those circumstances and involve ourselves in a way that is appropriate and true to who we are at heart. In this way, we in no way betray what we might call our destiny.

The key to all of this rests in the dropping of desire and the thoughts they generate. Meditation is a proven method for dropping desire. We just sit. Steadily and surely our thoughts slow when we meditate. We begin to relax into simply being. We begin to accept what is for what it is. Less and less we feel the necessity to force our way or impose some prevailing mental picture. For more on the subject consider reading the original Art of Allowing Books.

Ramana

I had a friend in Northern California back in ’01 try to tell me about this man, but I wasn’t paying attention. It wasn’t until ’08 that I was apparently ready for him. He is beautiful. I will likely say that about all of these meditation teachers, but I have a particular affinity for Ramana. I believe this is because his techniques I find extremely effective and helpful.

There seems to be a natural timing to what we find interesting. It is like two shapes meeting—the need and what will fill it—even when that need is as subtle as a developing awareness. Ramana has a few great books and the first one I came across was a thick book full of daily questions posed to Ramana along with his answers. Someone recorded these question and answer sessions word for word over the course of years, providing side notes on what was going on. The book is titled “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi”.

There are many books and many sages—masters—teachers out there, past and present. Very few of them actually offer suggestions and techniques that address the subtler processes engaged in during meditation. Most of them have simple straightforward advice that gets you started but that is it. Ramana Maharshi goes into great and specific detail in regards to stilling the mind.

I was finally ready to begin to still the mind—the operative word here being “begin”. The technique I am referring to here is his “I” thought technique. This technique is incredible and it absolutely works. It took me some time to really understand what he was talking about but eventually it clicked. I will offer links to further described techniques at the bottom of this article once these “technique descriptions” have been written.

I want to point out the difference between advice and techniques. Advice is something we can find plenty of—some good and some bad. Ramana’s advice is incredible. Some of his assertions are a little “out there” and yet impeccable. On the other hand, techniques are practical and usable descriptions of practices and mental or physical tasks that bring one success in the realms of deeper meditation.

Ramana Maharshi

From the foreword of "Be as You Are—The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi:"

In 1896 a sixteen year old schoolboy walked out on his family and, driven by an inner compulsion, slowly made his way to Arunachala, a holy mountain and pilgrimage center in South India. On his arrival he threw away all his money and possessions and abandoned himself to a newly-discovered awareness that his real nature was formless, immanent consciousness.

His absorption in this awareness was so intense that he was completely oblivious of his body and the world; insects chewed away portions of his legs, his body wasted away because he was rarely conscious enough to eat and his hair and fingernails grew to unmanageable lengths.

After two to three years in this state he began a slow return to physical normality, a process that was not finally completed for several years. His awareness of himself as consciousness was unaffected by this physical transition and it remained continuous and undimmed for the rest of his life.

Ramana Maharshi becomes a great meditation and spiritual teacher on this same holy mountain for many years. He attracted many students from all over the world and his lifestyle was extremely simple in terms of things. He had a special relationship with the animals in and around the Ashram. There are videos of him, and many books that feature his teachings. I will go into a few of his ideas that I found particularly beneficial at some point on this site, as well as providing links (as I begin to collect them).

Non-Doing Meditation Techniques. Zen Principles and Practice.

Non-Doing Meditation Techniques – An Article by Benjamin Dean

Non-Doing Meditation Techniques

One of my challenges in meditation has been to drop desire. This challenge arises even at the outset of meditation, as most meditation practices require stillness. To be still, one must let go of the pressures from the mind to do something instead of just sit there. Once comfortable with simply sitting (walking, standing, breathing, bowing), there comes a new understanding of non-doing.

Non-doing meditation techniques are full of contradiction, and successful practice relies on a reconciliation of opposites. Out of this reconciliation of opposites arises a greater truth. Life has its many teachers, both consciously sought out and those we encounter by “chance”. Of those more formal teachers, a good teacher is one who will make it abundantly clear that in the end “what is real and true” is something we finally simply experience for ourselves.

Given this, diving in and exploring the art of non-doing by oneself is essential. Having had some experience working with it myself, I would like to offer my insights as well as a few words of encouragement. To start with non-doing is something we are all naturally quite good at. We practice it constantly. The greater part of our being engages in it automatically and biologically. It is the tip of the iceberg that creates the problem. I refer to ego, mind, and our seemingly endless materially-focused thinking processes.

Nature is already perfectly engaged in the art of non-doing. Can you on a whim prevent your heart from beating or your blood from pumping? I think not. It is impossible for us to stop or alter in any significant way the workings of our bodies. I am not suggesting that our bodies are completely beyond our reach, but we must recognize that 99.9% of our workings fall under the miraculous care and wisdom of Mother Nature.

Non-Doing Meditation Techniques – Free Will

Are we not individuals with our own distinct choices? What of our free will? This question reminds me of a book called Right Use of Will- Healing and Evolving the Emotional Body by Ceanne DeRohan. In this book Ceanne writes that “free will” and “destiny” are the same- the argument being that what a person chooses (free will) is absolutely in line with one’s nature (destiny). We cannot be other than ourselves and yet who we are in terms of expression will constantly change.

Our true nature is what we seek to express above all, but is this really something we can manifest on our own and on cue? “Just be yourself.” What does that mean? We carry ideas and concepts around-explanations of what we do now and who we are to become, but life has a way of showing us different. Circumstances and challenges surprise us. The shape and quality of our lives pale in the face of our accumulated ideals.

We dream of greater fulfillment and further expression and yet our dreams-our concoctions of ideals and values prevent us from accepting ourselves as we are. Part of this is due to the fact that we live in the shadow of a hand-me-down morality. We believe we have to consciously choose good over evil, failing to recognize that nature when left to itself is inherently moral. We have come to believe that if we don’t carry around a clear sense of what is okay or not okay for us to do, we will live life as an abomination.

Is your cat morally sound? Is the tree in your backyard capable of evil? Yes and No. Nature is beautiful. Good and evil are polarities. We are seeking something beyond both- life. How do we get out of our own way? The answer is to get out of our heads. We must come to terms with who we are. We must get in touch with our core being-beyond identity. The answer lies in letting go and allowing oneself to be the instrument of the one creator. We must drop the ego.

This is not a shutting down of the self, but a shutting down of the ego. It can get confusing. The key is to stay alert and affirm life-affirm the life that is radiating out from within. If you mistakenly send the message of annihilation to the self you can inadvertently trigger emergency systems in the body. This is something that I managed poorly my first go round and temporarily burned out my adrenal glands. Remember that we are not trying to drop awareness, only the prevailing pathos that thinks obsessively.

There is a tremendous freedom dwelling deep in us all. We are in a habit of expressing that freedom by identifying with our choices. However, it is not freedom at all if we are doing it habitually and unconsciously. Still, our identities (ego) WILL put up a good fight. Just toying with the idea of “non-doing” can have us stand up in defiance and shout- “Come on! You mean just sit around like a pinball in a pinball machine? We need to fight like hell for what we want! I’m not just waiting around for some destiny! I have responsibilities! There are things to do!”

This is where the paradox lies. If we take a closer look we see that these defiant statements above are all future-based and consequently fear-based. The truth is that when it comes time for us to fight we will not be thinking about it-we will be fighting. There will be no stopping us. It needn’t be planned. Life is a kind of martial art that way. We will need to learn how to trust our awareness in the moment-each moment.

Non-Doing Meditation Techniques – The Heart

Non-doing is in our hearts. The heart is naturally engaged in non-doing meditation techniques. It is an involuntary muscle. When it comes to the heart we cannot help ourselves-which is a good thing. Are we in our hearts or in our heads? When we are in our heads we dull life down, dragging the baggage of identity into every life circumstance. The result is a narrowed responsiveness. If we can instead manage without expectation, we remain in readiness-aware and alert.

One of the easiest ways to learn the non-doing meditation techniques is to try and not do anything. There is a simple breathing meditation which is to try and not breathe. This does not mean hold your breath. Just try and not be the one that is breathing. Trust that life will breathe for you. Know that this meditation practice may bring up some issues- especially any suppression of energies in the lower chakras. If this is the case, this is good a time as any to start processing whatever that may be.

Try meditation. Meditation works wonders. When doing sitting meditation simply encounter the idea of not doing anything-to not be the one doing- whether it is breathing or anything else. It will soon be obvious to you that “trying to not do” is still doing. This is not something that can be resolved by the mind. The mind will simply flip-flop back and forth and will always be up to something (doing). Relaxing the will helps. This automatically slows the parade of thoughts.

Breathe. We are seeking balance. There are seven major chakras. The heart chakra is in the center and it is the balancer. It oxygenates the blood. The blood is connected to the will and oxygen with consciousness. If we look at a cross (any cross) and liken it to the body, we see a vertical line and a horizontal line. Our will is the horizontal line while the vertical line is our attention to the moment. The two lines meet in the here and now. All ideas are sacrificed on the cross of what matters-the heart.

There is a wonderful book by Esther and Jerry Hicks entitled “The Astonishing Power of Emotions” that goes far in dealing with the practice of non-doing. Interesting that both these books I have made reference to have been channeled (non-doing). This book is about The Law of Attraction and The Art of Allowing. The art of allowing is the same as the art of non-doing. Our feelings are indeed our true means of navigation. We “feel” our way through life.

Non-Doing Meditation Techniques – Individualism

Many who wish to learn non-doing meditation techniques are crossing from an individuated state to a spiritual state and fear the loss of their individuality. Know that individuality only increases. Look at the difference between Krishna and Buddha-one is sitting and one is dancing. Individuality is not lost through non-doing but emphasized. Our spontaneity naturally reveals us to ourselves. We ARE diverse. Nature IS diverse. Diversity arises out of liberation (as opposed to de-liberation).

You may have noticed that those who have mastered the art of allowing and embrace their true nature radiate a distinct beauty. This is because beauty is the energetic side of truth. Beauty is how truth manifests. A person of truth is compelling. We want to be close. We want to become this truth. We are attracted because we want more of it for ourselves. We want to live with that kind of freedom. We want to live with that level of relaxation-yes, relaxation.

Non-doing is effortless. It is relaxing. Look at how beautiful people are when they are sleeping soundly. It is truth-just lying there breathing. The doing is all taken care of. In the state of non-doing we are as light as a feather. Our energy is boundless for we are not in conflict. It is our lack of inspiration that makes things so difficult and heavy. When we are inspired, we are simply following our excitement. We “find” ourselves doing things. We are not forcing it. We simply witness it.

This is why meditation practice can work so well as a way to get to know non-doing. We practice it while we are doing very little to begin with- just sitting there breathing- on our bums for hours. Experiment with relaxation. Work on slowing down the parade of mental traffic. The more we slow the traffic of the mind, the greater the relaxation.

Non-Doing Meditation Techniques – Joy

It is not a matter of having to empty the mind of mental traffic completely before one starts experiencing results. Slowing the internal dialogue occurs by degrees. The traffic slows little by little. As the traffic slows our thoughts become more transparent. We can readily see to what degree we are triggered by them. It becomes clear whether our lives are being run by our habitual thoughts or by our present-tense awareness.

With this recovered freedom from our habitual thoughts we feel joy-the joy of possibility. This is how we always know we are on the right track. If we feel relaxed and joyful then we are doing the right thing. The tree in your backyard is expressing pure joy. The sun as it rises expresses pure joy. It is not concerned about what the neighbors think. It does not amp up its expression in the face of judgment. Nor does not perform. It answers only to itself and its joy.

Imagine the simple joy you see in young children-a joy that comes from innocence and wonder-the innocence and wonder of one who trusts without having any proof of anything or feeling the need to prove anything. How can they trust so implicitly? Where does this trust come from? The answer is simple. It is ourselves that we are trusting when we trust.

In meditation, deep within the core of our being, we come to realize clearly that there is but one being. We all are this one being-and this one being seeks nothing more but to know itself as one trust and one love. How can it be otherwise? As all beings are one, then all beings carry this same understanding deep within. Some may be in touch with it and some may need a reminder. We teach by modeling. We learn by example. Be joy. Be love. Be trust. If you are interested in exploring more non-doing meditation techniques, try this book called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki.

Samskaras

It may come as no surprise that these three Sanskrit words above cannot be readily translated into English. The words “attachments”, “impressions” and “imprints” do not carry the same meaning. However, so many of us for who Sanskrit is so entirely foreign are nevertheless fascinated with the meanings of these words. I know I am. Let’s explore them, shall we?

A Samskara is a prevailing thought-form or image that is so deeply ingrained that we cannot shake it off. Of the three this is the term I am most familiar with. The other two words stand for practically the same thing. The greater subject is karma. Karma has a deep ring to it. It has been absorbed into the English language. We all must live with our Karma, or must we?

Are we Slaves to Karma?

The popular belief about karma is that we are slaves to it. It is as good a scapegoat as God. Rather than take responsibility for making a change in our lives, we can simply say our behavior was “God’s will”. In a similar way we can always blame our unconscious past life experiences for our primitive behavior. Acknowledging the “God in ourselves” and what amounts to creative freedom comes at the price of responsibility.

We can always say “I’m sorry. If I was acting unconsciously I certainly wasn’t conscious of it.” and see how far that takes us. It is unrealistic to think that we can know all that is buried so deeply. There can be a Pandora’s Box of surprises that begins to emerge once one embraces freedom and spontaneity. Our sticking points are readily revealed when we behave more impulsively.

Our Actions Reveal Tendency

There is a phrase in the world of playwrights—“action reveals character”. Put a character in an odd situation—a pressing situation that she or he is unable to anticipate and you will have given them ample opportunity to show us what is making them tick. However, if we want to grow then we must challenge ourselves to get it all out in the open. Society certainly doesn’t make any of this easy.

We all seek freedom. We want to be more deeply ourselves. In order to do this we must unleash what is most natural. We must free the primal. When I say primal I am not referring to the beast within. More primal than beast is the formless timeless awareness at the core of us all. This is what we are after. This is the self beyond Karma. This is the self beyond Samskaras.

We want to bridge the conscious and the unconscious. We want to experience the peace that comes when what we are trusting is not ourselves at all. We want to trust pure awareness. Pure awareness has no desires. Pure awareness takes one moment at a time without anticipating loss of self. Pure awareness has no self. Pure awareness is pure.

How many of us are anywhere near this evolved in terms of development? Do we even agree that this where we want to be? Do we not wish to be absolutely free? Not “free from” or “free for” but simply free? So we must want to stop wanting. How do we move beyond these polarities of wanting and not wanting? There is something greater than both.

My guess is that peace of mind comes when we are not prompted by our mind but simply witness it. As I understand it as long as we are acting on behalf of our personalize identity then we are slaves to the perpetuation of idea. Each kingdom and species must make its way in the world of form. All these many creatures recognize both prey and predator through imprint.

Are We Slaves to Imprinting?

As human beings we also operate by imprint. We recognize the shapes and colors in our lives as being specific things. They are ultimately only energy—energy infused with purpose—and we have names for them all. We have our cars. What are our cars but energy and purpose? Even thoughts have a life—a shape—a form. We have our ideas—our nuances—our impressions—our inklings.

These inklings are comprised of images of these named things. We have programmed ourselves to perpetuate what we “know” and dream of how we might re-arrange them all to our satisfaction. We are bound to these imprints and images. We are living in a vast cinema-like dream of shapes, sizes and colors all invested in emotionally.

Recovering Wonder and Innocence

Can we really and truly experience the boundless one? There are those who say “Yes” to this and insist that it is possible. According to these masters who claim to have gone beyond “things” and “ideas” we must give up our Samskaras. We must learn to exist without imprint. We must learn the experience beyond thought and desire. We must drop our dependence on shape, size and color.

This is not to suggest that we must no longer appreciate all these things. The brilliance of the blue sky and the green forests would increase with our new found freedom. Our assumptions would disappear and be replaced by full wonder. It is desire that will have dropped. Projected meaning would be replaced with a bright openness to meaning. Innocence would replace imposed value.

It is our pre-occupation with these ideas, thoughts, images and nuances that have us behaving so automatically as if on auto-pilot. These tendencies have a life of their own. The mind fills with thoughts and we act on these thoughts. These thoughts are ingrained. These images are powerfully set in our unconscious.

The tendency will continue even after our body passes this life. We will be caught up in it even on our death-beds. Is it so surprising that this congregation of ideas and impulses will manifest again? This is how we are reborn again and again. It is personal heritage. It is the perpetuation of ways and means. It is a hand-me-down to yourself approach to life.

Processing Karma in Meditation

I have heard that Karma is something we have to work off slowly. Is this really the case? Can we not work Karma off as readily as paying attention to what needs attention? Another idea is that we must work off Karma through events and circumstances. Are we really bound to this? Why not work it all off in our imagination? Why not work it all off in meditation?

I would like to suggest that we can work it all off in the privacy of our own homes—sitting and processing all the contents of our pre-occupation, one image at a time. I feel that I have been doing this in meditation for some time now. The more of this I deal with the lighter I feel. The more I can transform automatic impulse into awareness the greater freedom I experience. I am less triggered by images and thoughts.

We are Drawn to Freedom and Light

So much is going on. There is so much out there. It is overwhelming. How can we possible move beyond the many impressions, names, ideas, images? The thought of how complex and overwhelming this is enough to make me want to give up the whole idea and embrace the materialistic world with new-found gusto. Still, I am drawn to freedom.

The materialistic world makes us miserable. Let’s face it. We have caught the bug of enlightenment. We are compelled to embrace source. We are driven to discover our deepest self. We have caught a glimpse of our original nature. We have fleeting experiences of pure awareness. We want to bring more of the truth and its beauty into our daily lives. We long for wholeness. So what do we do now?

“Infinite patience brings immediate results” is a quote that comes to mind. We needn’t rush things. There is no place to go really—hence the paradox that lies in dropping motive and desire. Who will drop it? Who will be the one to let it go? Suffice it to say that we are better off for knowing what it is that we are drawn to. Ah well—something to think about—or not.

Occurring by degrees, as our unconscious compulsive behavior lessens, we are more able to appreciate our growing ability to live freely in the moment with fewer reactions and more response. The work we do on ourselves tending to our inner life becomes more noticeable to us and so worth the hours spent in meditation.

Stress

“Stress we can do without. Tension we need. Our muscles have power built into them in this way. They are responsive to the needs of our bodies.”

Health and Relaxation

Health and beauty are intricately related. I speak of true beauty—a beauty that radiates out from within. This inner beauty expresses itself naturally in a body unburdened by stress. We find ourselves attracted to those who are relaxed. It is comforting to be around them. There is a special patience and effortlessness present in their being—in their bodies. There is very little anxiety present in them. Can we learn how to be this relaxed?

Most of us have had the opportunity to watch a loved-one sleep and witness the beauty in their face and in their aura. It is one thing to be relaxed while we are sleeping but quite another to be relaxed while going about our day. This is the real question. How can we relax while in the waking state? More than this, do we even know what relaxation is? We may know what causes stress but what exactly causes relaxation?

Our Bodies Use Proper Tension

Can we define relaxation? Oddly enough it is not just the opposite of tension. True relaxation is something more. We cannot achieve it by trying. Trying requires effort which only adds to the tension. To solve the relaxation problem we need to get to the core of what makes it possible. The key to relaxation is effortlessness. After all, this is how it is achieved in sleep. We are not trying to do anything special in our sleep. We are simply sleeping. We are doing nothing.

In sleep the body has taken over and we are resting comfortably. By contrast waking life requires a certain amount of tension. We can do without stress but tension we need. Our muscles have power built into them in this way. They are responsive to the needs of our bodies. They operate without any conscious effort. Our breathing continues and our blood pumps through our systems. Our bodies know how much tension is needed to take care of its necessary operations effortlessly.

A Change in Perspective and Outlook

Let’s take the example of walking across the floor. We all do it. It is universal. Sometimes when we walk across the floor it feels effortless, while other times it takes a great deal of effort. This is a matter of how we feel about where we are going. If we dread where it is we are going then this is going to show up in our bodies as resistance. We are not at all relaxed about it so it will be a great effort.

On the other hand, when we are either excited or not really thinking much about it, then we simply find ourselves at our destination. It is effortless. The real answer to our problem of anxiety and stress can be found at the heart of this difference we have just pointed out. We only need to find a way to enjoy everything that we do. Changing our perspective and our outlook can make the difference. Meditation can help us with both of these.

”We are not doing what we want to do. We are doing something else instead and the body knows this even if we deny it. This is not relaxation.”

We Cause Our Own Stress

The life of the body is virtually effortless. It is our outlook that makes the difference and brings in the stress. It is how we feel about what we do. The unwanted stress builds up due to the contrast between what we do and the fact that we don’t want to do it. We are not being kind to ourselves. We are not exercising our natural freedom. We are doing something else instead and the body knows the difference even if we deny it.

I would venture to guess that there is not one among us who can wave a magic wand and suddenly feel better about those things we feel rotten about. We need to be honest about how we feel. Not only do we need to admit the feelings but we need to express them. So often we are expected to walk around with a big smile on our faces whether this is how we feel or not. Life becomes a performance. Again, if you compare it to sleep—there is no-one to impress there and no performance.

We Can Heal Our Stress

I keep using sleep as an example and yet for some of us it is difficult to even sleep due to the stress in our lives. When I speak of relaxation in sleep I am referring to that sleep we have all known at some point in our lives even if our sleep now is interrupted or poor. It is true that meditation can relieve stress and anxiety, but we must first fully understand both what we are up against and where our support is.

So far we have recognized that it is not our bodies that are the problem. Our bodies may exhibit and hold the stress but our bodies are not the culprit. The stress is all a result of our mental and emotional activity and this can be addressed through meditation. If there are greater health problems that are contributing to the stress then this is a different matter. Even then meditation will likely put one in touch with the deeper problem.

Recovering Nature’s Integrity

I am not suggesting meditation is a cure-all. However there is no question that our bodies want to heal. Our bodies are maintained by nature and nature is fully capable of healing itself. The imbalances can be reversed if the behavior that caused the imbalance in the first place is dropped. I have witnessed this happen many times in my own personal experience. Mother Nature knows very well what works.

Which came first—the chicken or the egg? Many health problems are the result of chronic stress. Over time these subtle energy imbalances or distorted patterns will undermine the integrity of various bodily systems. These systems were built out of the wisdom of Mother Nature. Through meditation we drop the patterns of interference. This allows these natural systems to recover their integrity. We get out of the way so that nature can do its thing.

”This sets us up for dealing wholly with the present moment even though we may be looking at things that remain buried within us echoing the past.”

Energy, Inspiration and Expressing Feelings

We have established that nature knows exactly what to do all by itself. Nature has its own rules and it knows them well. We need only to get out of the way. We know that relaxation is beautiful. We know that it is achievable while sleeping. We want the same depth of relaxation while awake. We know that our resistance plays a large part for how easy it is to do things we like and how difficult it is to do things we don’t. How do we deal with our resistance?

Our goal is to relieve stress and anxiety. Any excess or absence of energy is due to our feelings of resistance. If we are inspired there is energy. If we are uninspired then our energy is either lacking or it is bottled up—expressed as apathy or frustration. Regardless of the feelings, they need to be expressed. The word expressed means let out and released. Our feelings need to be acknowledged and then released—not held in.

Meditating to Release Feelings

This can be done a number of ways. Physical activity is always good. However, meditation can also work for this. If we sit in meditation for a reasonable length of time we begin to get in touch with these feelings very clearly. Once in touch it is important to stay in touch and find a way to release them. Inhaling and exhaling is good but moaning or crying is better. Releasing through tone is more effective than simply releasing through the breath.

Try to find a place that is private enough where you can do this without being embarrassed. Make all the noise you need including screaming if necessary. Feelings are natural and if you are willing to truly get in touch with them they will just come out. It may not be pretty but then this is why we held them in. If you have ever witnessed someone emotionally honest in a very demonstrative way you may recall the beauty in it however distorted their face or body may have become.

Our Power is in Being Present

Our focus in now twofold in that we are both looking at ways to release pent up feelings and also working on ways to deal with circumstances in the present or anticipated future that will likely act as triggers to stress and anxiety. The first will give us a reliable form of release that we can build confidence around while the second will ready us for those areas of our lives that cause such resistance in us. One offers a method for coping with the past and one with the future.

We are dealing with the past and the future and yet our only means to deal with both is in the present moment. This is an important point. Our power is only in the present. We cannot change the past or the future. One is gone and the other is something we cannot know. It is absolute conjecture.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” —Heraclitus

In sitting meditation one is still and can ideally find a space where external influences are minimized. This sets us up for dealing wholly with the present moment even though we may be looking at things that remain buried within us echoing the past. This practice trains us to be actively aware of tendencies to carry tension. In this way it empowers us towards our second goal. We gain a confidence in dealing with old deposits of energy and consequently do not feel as helpless towards future stress threats.

Allowing What Is

Make No Mistake
it is the belief
in mistakes
that leads one
to mistakes

I wrote this poem down some three or four days ago and just now got around to posting it. The whole idea has been rolling around in my awareness for a while, and though a number of versions have come out, including this one—

Make No Mistake
believing in mistakes
is the only mistake

I am holding to the original, as it has something particular to it that is not in this slimmer version. It is an important difference, and I would like to go into it here. The poem occurred to me in meditation practice as much of my poetry does. It may not be clear at first glance, but the subject of the poem is “stilling the mind”.

I do not make it a habit of explaining my poems, as they express something real and experiential in an elegant manner that cannot be readily expressed by prose. I want to make an exception with this poem because the subject is fascinating me at the moment.

Inner Lives and Outer Lives

As excited as we all may get about our inner lives, we still have a biological and material world to manage. I know very few people who make a living doing what they love. Work life for most seems to be full of compromises. This remains a deep frustration for those who wish to practice a meditative life in day-to-day activities— life as meditation.

Working the land would likely be a different story, yet living and working among others who do not share our ideas or aspirations can lead to conflict on many levels. Starting meditation does help us to both minimize stress and deepen our sense of inner peace— and this often carries over into other areas of lives. So, is this the most that we can expect?

To get back to this poem, I want to take a closer look at the nature of mistakes. From a Zen and Taoist point of view, the experience of no-mind (or empty mind) is a great remedy to the problems that appear to emerge out of the apparent contrast between “inner” and “outer” life. To the degree that we can stay out of our heads, we do feel more peaceful.

Choice-Making and a Fear of Mistakes

So much of our “outer” or “materialistic” lives deal with us making choices. We are headed somewhere and we try and steer our ways along these paths as best we can. We struggle to make the best decisions and naturally regard the alternatives to these wise choices as mistakes. What invariably drives us into our heads is the process of choice-making— the fear of mistakes.

If we accept that the experience of dimension is secondary to our inner lives, then it becomes clear that our true selves never actually go anywhere. It is our preoccupation with direction and path that brings up all of this stress. If our start and finish are the same then does it matter what shape our biological and circumstantial lives take?

Dimension is temporary while who we are is eternal. Our heart goes right on beating without our influence. Our bodies function wholly without any decisions. It is the wisdom of nature that keeps all this in harmony—so where does this harmony stop and something else begin? Does our human behavior (due to “free will”) escape Mother Nature’s wisdom?

“Free will” is an idea that lives in our heads right next to the idea of “mistakes”. They are both mental constructs. Dimensional life can be divided between organic nature that arises effortlessly by itself and inorganic nature that is imposed due to “free will” and the idea of “choice”. To take my life as an example—nothing that I pushed into being out of decision has ever gone well.

By contrast, everything that ever happened by itself to me has proved to be extremely harmonic. These I consider mistakes as they emerged out a struggle in the mind over various options. In short, my only mistakes were due to a belief in mistakes. This is the difference between the two poems above. We CAN make mistakes by going with our minds instead of our hearts (feelings).

Choosing Out of No-Mind or the Heart

Without our mental struggles it is the heart that takes over. I should point out here that awareness is still very present when the mind is empty. For those unfamiliar with the experience of awareness without mental preoccupation, it must be said: we have greater awareness of possibility when the mind is stilled.

It is fear that has us forcing decisions. The idea of abandoning our dimensional lives to the wisdom of Mother Nature is just too much to consider. It seems a foolish idea. So we struggle over various options and miss much of what the present moment would otherwise offer. This is what leads us to live in perpetual inner argument. All of life becomes political and inorganic.

Is it a wonder that we struggle with so much disease and disintegration? Mind-directed life energies can distort our biological lives. Society and circumstance presses us down and natural energy patterns in the gross and subtle bodies become distorted. Body, Mind and Spirit all suffer. It is true that meditation can turn much of this around, even if only practiced intermittently.

Indifference and Freedom

I want to bring up the idea of indifference. The popular understanding of the word “indifference” has negative connotations—and has come to mean “not caring—not supportive—abandoned”. This is skewed. Indifference in truth leaves one free to express anything. Indifference is synonymous with absolute freedom. Indifference implies we have not made any decision in the matter.

I don’t feel that I have ever experienced this level of freedom. Judgments are so deeply ingrained. We spend our whole lives navigating by dodging this and embracing that according to what we have been programmed to expect. Can we really live without making choices and instead let choices make themselves? Without this natural wisdom in play I feel I am dabbling in an art I will continue to fail miserably at.

I was never meant to choose. The very act of choosing expresses doubts and a lack of trust in nature. Will providence be present? Is life so abundant that my needs will be met through Mother Nature’s wisdom? I want to trust that just as my heart beats all by itself so will fulfillment occur on all other levels. Do I become an unattended pinball in a great pinball machine or does the machine of life (nature) observe a harmony that will prevail more fully in the absence of my disruptive identity-based choices?

Nature: Effortless and Harmonious

It is the struggles that go on in the mind that lead us to overwhelmingly oppressive and negative emotions. Given the opportunity to free oneself with the knowledge that no mistake can be made, things begin to lighten up. According to the law of attraction, the unburdened psyche out of relief is more attractive and positive and will attract accordingly. If we build our circumstantial and social lives in this effortless way do they not continue to function in a harmonious manner?

As a part of nature myself, am I not naturally and organically directed towards my own personal fulfillment— directed wholly by the energies in my person manifesting as impulse and vision, or must I impose ideas and strategies?

Attraction

The “Law of Attraction” is an idea that is gaining popularity— due in part to the work of Esther and Jerry Hicks (Abraham) in books such as “The Astonishing Power of Emotions”. This is a great book and I recommend it to everyone. The messages are timeless and deep. They touch on areas of this subject that are subtle and quite frankly I have never heard expressed before. In short— it is good stuff.

The “Law of Attraction” implies much, and I have some ideas I would like to toss out regarding this law. It makes complete sense that we will attract whatever we put out in terms of vibration. Like attracts like so anger attracts anger, love attracts love, and so on. These are emotional states and I have watched this phenomenon happen personally for years. I can now reflect on it and see it clearly.

Vibrations and Wavelength

More than this simple version of emotional likeness however, is the affinity that we feel towards others in a general sense. It is another form of like attracts like and occurs when we find a person’s vibe compatible—we feel in tune with them. For example, we can talk to a person and realize after the fact that we were on completely different wavelengths, having shared virtually nothing at all.

On the other hand, there are those who we feel an immediate attraction to. We communicate telepathically and can practically finish each other’s sentences. Of course this can be both great and annoying, but for some reason the link exists. Relationships can be complimentary out of commonality and also out of polarity—along a shared axis. The term “you complete me” comes to mind.

Diversity of Frequency

What I would like to add to this mix is the idea of frequency. I find it interesting that wavelength and frequency are terms used to describe dynamics of sound, light and electricity—any energy really. What I am fascinated with currently is the idea of frequency when it comes to personality. How do we measure frequency? I have an idea about this. I’m sure it is much more complicated, but here goes.

There are people in my life who, if I ask them a question, they will not really think about the question. They will simply blurt out the default response they have filed in their “knowledge” and that’s that. You get no indication from these people of what is going on with them. In contrast there are those who, if you ask them something, they will look up to the side or down, or something—but essentially check in with themselves to see how they feel about it—now. Their answer comes from the moment.

Meditation as “Checking In” with Source

They check in with feelings—with now—with source. How many times do they do this in a day? How many times in an hour? This may be a way to measure frequency. How many times per minute does a person check in? How present are they? I find that the people I connect to most are those that have a similar frequency. It is difficult for me to connect with those who rarely check in—who are running on auto-pilot. This is okay. This is where we both are.

It helps me to understand that this is the reason. There is nothing missing in either of us that accounts for why we have trouble connecting. If we were both radios we would never pick up each other’s signal. This is just the way it is. No big deal. It is satisfying to know that this natural phenomenon is what prevents this connection. We simply find some people more electromagnetically compatible than others.

I plundered through various definitions explaining what meditation is on this site, and my short answer is “a means to knowing self”. I believe this checking in described above is a good example. For some it takes a shock, for others it comes from sitting quietly. We all do it differently, and some of us hardly do it at all.

Have you had experiences with this? What do you think of this idea of how to measure frequency? Please feel free to share your ideas.

Learning

Starting Meditation Practice

Embarking on meditation can be intimidating. Whether it is to simply relax a bit more, or to become (sound the trumpets) enlightened, getting started can be daunting for how much curiosity there is around it. So, to begin with, just to take the pressure off, know this— no-one is adept at meditation. This may seem like an absurd statement, for there are millions of people who meditate— who have been meditating for years. I started meditating when I was in college, and that was thirty years ago.

The truth is that no-one is a master at meditation. No-one knows how to mediate. If they believe they know how, then they are not truly meditating. I have two quotes to share that recognize this truth.

“Self-knowledge is not a thing to be accumulated; it is to be discovered from moment to moment, and to discover there cannot be accumulation.” —J. Krishnamurti – As One Is

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” —Shunryu Suzuki – Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

The point of meditation is to reach a point where there is no particular point in meditating— which brings a freshness, an innocence and a sense of wonder. This innocence arises out of being washed clean, and being able to see life through the eyes of a child, able to appreciate once again its beauty and simplicity as well as the quality of wholeness, oneness, fullness, richness. Okay, enough with the nesses.

Getting Started Meditating

Obviously, all these people do something regularly that they call meditation. They may sit, or walk, or knit or whatever. There are many ways to meditate. I enjoy sitting still. I sit with my legs crossed in a similar manner to what is depicted in so many photographs—something akin to the lotus position.

This is what works for me. So, even though I do not know how to meditate, I DO know what position works consistently. So there is a paradox at work here— I know how to meditate, or get started meditating, but when it comes to the actual meditation, I deliberately come up empty-handed.

This brings us to another issue, and that is of intention. Meditation, for me, involves the struggle to not struggle. How can one stop struggling if one has to struggle to stop struggling? It is because meditation involves finding what is in common between opposites and letting both go— allowing one to exist in a space where nothing is in conflict with anything else— or, to coin a word—oneness.

Yes, it can happen. It works, and it is a beautiful space. This is why people continue to do it. If it were just sitting still for hours without any real peace, then it would not be such a big deal to so many people.

To Meditate – Just Sitting

For those starting out, it is enough just to sit still for the allotted period of time. There are so many thoughts that will pass through the mind and attempt to trigger you into going about all the many things that are more pressing, like the dishes, the laundry, etc. and on and on forever. Let’s be honest. It never stops. The only way to stop is to disarm these triggers and sit still.

The excuses will come, one after another, outlining the absurdity of your sitting doing nothing. The mind does not want you sit still, because if you sit still long enough it will cease to be the boss. You instead will become your own person, truly independent of all the mental traffic. Krishnamurti said it over and over again that his objective was to free man unconditionally.

Just Beginning to Meditate

The place to start is with just managing to sit still for a half an hour. A half an hour is a long time to evade the traffic of the mind, ever telling you to do something different. It sounds easy. We find so many ways to distract ourselves from potential silence—music, television, radio—the list goes on. Actually sitting still will bring up all the things that you have been evading, avoiding, denying.

One of the problems with meditation is that it challenges to see it all for yourself up close and personally, which ultimately leads to great personal growth and development. You can reinvent yourself utterly, see life anew and with excitement and wonder. You must only pay the price of admission, which is to witness all that you have stuffed down, one episode at a time.

Beginning to Still Thoughts

I personally have let go of SO much that was haunting me, holding me back, torturing me. There are nightmares of thought-trains ready to send you into habitual spirals of “what is wrong with you” and all the rest—internalized voices from the ogres from your past. Imagine being free of this. I have been meditating for thirty years and just the other day I unearthed a memory with my Father on his deathbed—a memory that was just lying there in my subconscious— absolutely effecting my day to day.

Just that extra bit of tension driven by something that happened years ago—life I had not fully live, could not live in the moment it happened—wasn’t really there for and aching inside me—hoping for the chance to be felt in its entirety and released. It is gone now. My meditation is free to go even deeper.

Meditation is Healing

Once again, if you are just beginning, or tried once and got discouraged or fed up from sitting still, my advice is to try again and again. The return is immeasurable. Chronic illnesses can utterly disappear. There is an increase in the ability to breathe deeply. There is a restfulness that follows your throughout the day.

The more you do it, the more you take with you as you move into all the different areas of your life. One feels a stronger presence of mind and not as much of a short fuse in terms or reacting to others and all of their stuff. The freedom that comes is the freedom to remain grounded and centered in the face of what once sent you reeling. This makes life easier on you and on others. Be good to yourself.

iThought

Ramana Maharshi in a number of books which are in fact references to his teachings, including many word-for-word quotes, offers those of us seeking to still the mind an incredible technique one might call “the “I” thought technique”. I will describe it as best I can here. However, if you want to really get into it, check out the book “Be As You Are—The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi”.

For those who delve deeply into meditation stilling the thoughts quite quickly becomes a compelling interest. The beauty of awareness in its pure form is unbelievably sweet. We get hints and glances of it, but being able to sustain it is rare as the mind is slippery. The gratefulness I have to Ramana Maharshi for providing us with an actual technique for stilling the mind is immense.

Practiced at length, this technique can bring very real results. It is not an easy technique. However for those of us bent on experiencing the bliss that stilling the thoughts brings, easy needn’t be the case. The first thing I need to address before presenting the actual technique is the polarity of subject and object and how consciousness (or pure awareness) is aware of “things”.

The ego is the one that identifies with experience and claims to be the one who is experiencing. This is the subject. The things experienced and the circumstances witnessed are the objects. Subject witnesses object. There is he who is conscious and then what he is conscious of. The “conscious of” is the object while consciousness (or the conscious one) is the subject.

As redundant as all this may seem now, this perspective will come in handy as things get more subtle. The description of the experience in the previous paragraph is how we go about our daily lives as individuals. My car of which I observe and drive is a matter of subject and object. I am the subject and my car is the object. Awareness however IS in truth—singular—one. It is an undivided experience. One feels absolutely at one with all that is. There is no “two”.

In this experiential space there are no thoughts that divide subject from object. Subject and object have merged to become what is greater than both. Divinity is felt and known. Ramana’s technique helps us to merge subject and object together. The fact is that we ARE awareness. This is what enables us to be the subject in these scenarios. We experience. We exist. We ARE.

The Ramana Maharshi technique has us focus on “this that we are” to the exclusion of the object. It is counter-intuitive to go deeply into that which we wish to shake off. It is the ego we wish to lose. The ego is false. The ego is nothing more than the experience of division. We are distracted by the contents of mind. We first imagine ourselves as separate and envision ourselves as a reference point for which all else occurs.

Beneath this ego however is our true awareness. Eager to shake off the ego, we try to circumvent it. In doing this we end up shaking off our true self as well. The ego must be pierced not ignored. Here is how we achieve this piercing. The “I” thought that Ramana speaks of is the first thought. When we are drifting away from thought temporarily it is the “I” thought that emerges first when we once again pick up the habit of thinking.

The “I” thought is first because—we are our reference point. It is ourselves that we wish to protect. We are self-interested and when there is a threat to our identities we begin with ourselves as the natural starting place. We focus on our body and our being as separate and something to defend. The “I” thought is very subtle and quick and yet it is where every train of thought begins. All thoughts are anchored in this first “I” thought.

A first great step in this technique is to actually witness the “I” thought naked in all its glory. So much confidence in this process is gained when this happens. For some it comes quite easily, others will find it more difficult. It so helps to have a sense of direction in the domain of the mind (which can be so elusive). To continue, the way to free oneself from thoughts is to sustain a focus on this “I” thought.

Once you recognize the “I” thought as taking place you are to focus solely on this thought to the exclusion of all else. What we are doing is permeating the subject and letting the objects disappear in the background. This can be grueling as the well of unconscious emotions and impulses that compel one to think of actual things begin to build up. There is great pressure to think— to solve some unknown problem.

If you can manage to stick with the “I” thought (subject) to the exclusion of actual thinking ABOUT anything (objects) for a reasonable amount of time then something incredible happens. If one delves deeply enough into the subject pure awareness is reached. This is the one eternal formless subjective experience. Everything else is false. The material world is an energetic projection engaged in by this awareness.

The deeply felt emotions will ultimately simply solve themselves. This all gets easier when the pressure drops as we absorb the compulsion and begin to relax. It is not easy. The pressure can be great. However, sustaining the focus on the subject (the one who thinks) intensely over time starves the identity to its death. Without the objects there is no subject. They need each other to survive. With both subject and object gone the single reality prevails. It is of course beautiful. It is sheer bliss.