Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Putting the theory to the test........

Parts of the blog entry I wrote yesterday could be seen as quite academic and sterile. After I had posted it I thought to myself 'where was the personal human element in it? The truth was that there wasn't one. I was hiding behind the theory without putting myself on the line and relating it to my own practice.

This morning I got up early, lit a meditation cone, settled myself on my stool and began to meditate. I began by bringing my attention and focus to my breath. Not attending to the in- breath or the out-breath but to the space in-between - that point where the in-breath stops and the out-breath starts. This space is more important than attending to either the in-breath or the out-breath. I found that I could do this a couple of times and then my attention wandered. Once I became aware that my attention had wandered I gently brought my attention back to that space between breathing in and breathing out and began again. It is this willingness to begin again and again without any judgement of being a good or bad meditator which is the important thing in meditating. Meditation is not something that should be 'done' it's a state which the consciousness falls into effortlessly.

For many years I made the mistake of thinking that meditation would take me somewhere. On all the retreats I did I would sit in the meditation sessions completely aware and bored out of my mind. I would look at everyone around me deep in some state that seemed to be denied to me and I would feel mounting frustration that I couldn't 'get' to that place. Now many years later I realise that meditation is not a tool to 'get' somewhere, it's a tool to tease the consciousness into an altered state. In this altered state which is a brain altered state a different perception of the world emerges.

I wrote yesterday of the difference between consciousness and awareness. During my time meditating this morning I was aware of every thought and feeling thus I was conscious. You could argue that it was a high level of consciousness because I was aware of thoughts and feelings without reacting to them. I watched them come and go as one would watch events in a film, as a witness with no emotional or intellectual involvement. Yet the fact that I was conscious means I had not entered into the state of absolute awareness. I was still in a dual world, the world of separation seeing my thoughts and feelings as separate.

Vippasana meditation is based on this watching of thoughts and feelings and becoming conscious of the fact that they arise, stay for a while and then disappear. The aim of such meditation is to realise that nothing is permanent and to be able to let go. In my opinion this method gives relief from stress and tension as the realization dawns that while we have thoughts and feelings that this is not who we are. We can watch these thoughts and feelings arise and go therefore we cannot be these thoughts. With this realization for me came huge relief in that I was no longer at the mercy of my thoughts and feelings.

But to go to the state of Awareness or total absorption requires more. I know that a part of what is preventing me from allowing my consciousness to shift to this state albeit temporarily is spiritual fear. There are only two things that motivate human behaviour one is fear and the other is love. Unfortunately in today's world it is fear which appears to be the greatest motivator. Fear that there won't be enough, fear of not being good enough/successful enough etc. Meditation brings these fears to the surface.

What I have noticed in my own meditation and contemplation is that when I started off first many years ago, it was novel and relatively easy. But then as I learned more about myself from the kind of thoughts and feelings I had I experienced psychological fear - I experienced resistance to becoming aware of my thoughts and feelings because I didn't like what they were showing me. And so I used to spend many meditation sessions day-dreaming to avoid becoming conscious. I have passed that now and can honestly say that there is no longer any psychological fear because thoughts and feelings hold no fear for me now.

However moving into the state of Awareness brings with it another kind of fear and that is spiritual fear. The fear of letting go, surrendering the consciousness, the witness. This is a step that I am resisting and yet I know that if I am to ever write like the mystics that this is where I must go. To write from a state of total absorption will be to write words that won't fail to touch, move and inspire......

I catch glimpses of this state of total absorption not through meditation but when I am walking through the park or if my eye catches the perfection of a flower then for a few minutes there is nothing but a state of complete absorption in the flower and its perfection. At such time I feel a shift and experience a deep feeling of love and connection. The mind is quiet, there is no evaluation as to what flower it is, how long more it is likely to live, there is stillness and out of that stillness comes love.....