Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Commitment to meditate

Hurrah, I got up when my alarm clock went this morning and as a result am feeling awake and refreshed even though it is 5.30am. I didn't meditate last night and so I found my shawl, lit a candle and sat down on my meditation stool to meditate. I would be lying if I said that I found it easy to meditate. I don't. I can be sitting on my sofa having a strong urge to meditate and then the minute I actually do it, the mind starts to go crazy with thoughts like, you can't meditate when you're thirsty, make yourself a cup of tea', or it will suddenly come up with some insight and makes the demand to 'write it down'. This is both frustrating and intriguing. How is it that when I am thinking about meditating the mind is quiet and yet when I actually sit down to meditate it goes crazy trying to sabotage the process.

It wouldn't do this if there wasn't something in meditation which it sees as a threat. The mind is afraid of the stillness which meditation produces. The nature of the mind is to want to be busy, not to stop and be still. It will even do this with the spiritual journey in that lots of books can be bought and studied. The mind is happy with this because it knows that the truth will never be experienced through the pages of a book. The contents of a book, can help, guide, give explanation but it cannot produce experience. The experience will come when the mind is still and quiet to allow the gifts from the no-mind to come through.

For many years I wanted my meditation sessions to be something other than what they were. I have learned and practiced the meditation technique for Vippasana meditation. This is where I am aware of every thought that comes into the mind when I am meditating. I recognise these thoughts as 'not me' and I say that and then watch the thought disappear. The idea is that after a time of saying 'not me' to everything that arises in the mind a point will be reached when there are no thoughts in the mind - this is the state of meditative absorption or Samadhi.

Unfortunately I have not been able to reach this state. For me there is always the separation as I am constantly aware of the frequency and nature of my thoughts when I am meditating. It takes self-discipline from me to accept that this is the way it is and it is OK. I have experienced spiritual awakening in a meditative setting in Devon and that is the one time where I did enter into total meditative absorption, the kind of absorption which heralds Awakening.

What is spiritual awakening? It is when the consciousness expands so that the deepest secrets of the universe are revealed to the expanded consciousness. This is state which is not common place and requires working at. The other evening I went to a talk by Dr Peter Fenwick. He is best known for his work on NDE (near death experiences) but this talk was about Enlightenment and practical steps for how to achieve it.

It was interesting in that the room was absolutely full. It seems that wisdom on Enlightenment is much sought after. Peter began by giving some statistics on the likelihood of people achieving the state of enlightment. I was amazed to learn that of 10,000 salmon who begin their journey upstream that only 4 or 5 will make it to the top. Of 10,000 sperm released only 1 will make it to the egg and be successful. This brought home to me just how rare and precious the jewel of enlightenment and sitting there I felt such humility that for whatever reason I have been given a taster of what life is like when living from an enlightened state. He spoke about 'throwing your consciousness so we realise the one-ness of everything'. I was interested in this because while I feel connected with everything there is still some separation and so this tip of throwing the consciousness was interesting. At the end of the talk I went up to him and asked him about this and how to do it. It's not as easy as it seems. The next day I was walking through the park to work. It was a beautiful morning and I was feeling so contented. I remembered what Peter said about 'throwing the consciousness' and I said to myself 'OK here goes'. I threw my head back and visualised my consciousness up in the sky.....what happened.....absolutely nothing, no cosmic one-ness or leaving the physical world. I threw my head back with so much violence that all it gave me was the experience of a headache. So this state of one-ness is still a state that is denied to me at this time.

However, my life is truly peaceful, joyous, calm and balanced without having such mystical experiences. It wasn't always like this. I can remember when I was first introduced to Buddhism and committed to following this path, I fully expected my life to improve. Everything about it was a mess. What I found was that as well as circumstances being difficult my mind which up to then didn't really get involved with much started to give me a hard time about following the Buddhist philosophy. Such thoughts like 'you know that you are knowing going to be seen as even more weird by your family if you continue to do this, and 'what if there's nothing there at the end of all the study and sacrifice'. These thoughts were real and unrelenting but I pushed through them and kept going. Doing a little every day - reading, walking in nature, thinking about something a writer had said, peforming one small kind deed with awareness that this deed would make a difference but not attached to whether it did or not.

It is this concept of attachment without desire which is most difficult to grasp. It requires a detachment which is not cold or unemotional. To perform actions with the intent of doing good and then to let it go. For us as humans this is hard because we like to be able to assess how well we are doing and on the spiriutal path this really is the worst thing you could do.

In one of Alice Bailey's books which I subscribe to because they contain material which had to have come from outside of the mind. I can be sceptical of books which have been 'channelled' - brought through from the metaphysical world by someone living but there is something about the books of Alice Bailey which resonate with me as being true. In one of these books she says something to the effect of 'make humble application for initiation and then forget about it'. I liken it to planting a seed. The ground is prepared and the seed is planted and given a little water and then it is left alone. The spiritual journey is just like this. An event will happen which will result in a deep desire to know Truth, some study will be undertaken and then at some point there will be some disillusionment or something which will cause the person to take a break from the journey.

This is what happened to me. For 9 years I had studied and practiced Mahayana Buddhism. This culminated in a visit to India where I tracked the life of the Buddha and gave thanks to all of the insights and understandings into suffering and the nature of suffering which Buddhism had given to me. While in India I did a 10 day silent Vippassana meditation retreat. It was here that I experienced the peace that comes when the mind is still.

On my return to London I was pondering the next step on my spiritual path. Suddenly I heard what seemed like a voice or loud authoritative thoughts which said only three words 'give it up'. There was no elaboration, no alternative suggestion just those three words. My heart sank because reading spiriutal books, going to conferences and this whole world had been such a part of my life but I listened and gave up. Then I think it was about six months later I had a most incredible experience. An experience which has resulted in me being calm, serene, without stress and able to transform my environment. But to gain this I had to pass the test of non-attachment. I had to agree to give everything up unconditionally. Not give up with the thought - there's something better to come. No, I gave up with the thought, 'that's it I have come as far as I can given my karma and what I have to do for the rest of this life is to live a life which does not cause suffering for myself or others'. Then I can have the kind of karma which will enable me to go further in my next life-time. So I gave up totally and completely.

I don't want to go into too much detail about the experience because I have written about it in detail in my book. But as a result I understand about the importance of non-attachment to the spiritual path. Much is said about material attachment but spiritual attachment is more subtle and mischievious for the spiritual path.

So if anyone is reading this blog and you are at the point where you are thinking 'I have done this and that for x number of years and I don't seem to be making any progress', maybe it is time to take a break and do something else and let the seed that has been planted find its own course without interference from you. I want to suggest that you be aware of your own inner reactions as you read this. Has the mind immediately said 'that doesn't apply to you, or you're not there yet or something else. Just watch your reaction when you read that sentence, it will provide a wealth of information for you about whethe or not you are attached.

Must get ready for work now....gosh sometimes I feel like I lead such a double life. My job to pay the bills couldn't be more different than anything in the spiritual world, but maybe I need this to ensure balance.......Let's hope I get good news from the meditation centre and that they allow me the space to hold the 4 week course. More anon.....

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