Sunday, December 19, 2010
I think a lot of people go about meditation for the wrong reasons. To meditate for a reason at all is misguided: meditating for relaxation or for enlightenment is self-defeating. I mean, isn't it a bit of an oxymoron to relax for a purpose, or to try to be utterly present for the (future) goal of enlightenment?
But as for technique; it seems many people meditate to quiet 'the monkey mind;" that is, to stop the endless stream of thoughts that keeps us wound up. I've been there. When I first got into meditation at age 20, I was battling a mind that was literally wall to wall packed with thoughts; I was desperately looking for an off-switch. Slowly I learned the ropes, and the gaps and silences expanded. I think this was largely by accident, because I wasn't following a good practice by trying to quiet my mind with effort.
See, meditation is like laying on your back watching the clouds. You know, like on those warm summer days where there are endlessly varied cloudforms, and you lay there naming them all. Meditation isn't about cloudbusting, nor about cloudless skies, per se. It's about shifting your gaze away from the fascination of the cloudforms completely and onto the clear blue void. A void that doesn't need any bringing into existence, as it is there all the while. And you can't do a thing about the clouds, they're going to be there. Let them.
Many beginners sit there, trying to have a clear mind. When they start getting caught up in thinking (as we all do), they think, "No! I'm supposed to have a clear mind," and force the thought away. This is, of course, more thinking, and negetive thinking at that. Also it can lead to surpression of thoughts and that is never good, they'll build up down below and finally explode.
It is better to accept the thoughts for what they are while shifting your focus and identification off of them altogether, watching rather the silences and spaces, however small. The thoughts become fewer on their own, without effort, and all along, almost magically, the quiet moments seem to grow. The silence is there all along, you just gotta chill out. You don't sit for a purpose, to turn the mind off. You simply sit, relaxing. Relaxing, the mind begins to cease exuding thought, and peace grows.
May I switch metaphors? Meditating with effort, to force unwanted thoughts away, is like trying to smooth water by flattening the waves with your hand. This makes more waves. Instead, you sit back and let it still itself. Read the phrase again, and see how it contradicts any sense of meditative calm: "meditating with effort, to force unwanted thoughts away..."
Thoughts are commotion, as is effort. How, by commotion, can you stop the commotion? Relax, dammit!