Ideas Presented in Chapter 2
Idea #2: Meditation Develops the Core of Experience
Let’s keep going with the trajectory we just set along the path of long-range growth. The reason that meditation can and should be seen as a support of the life we are given is that its effects do not fall into a few specific branches of life. Meditation does not just develop “meditative-ness”, whatever that might be. It improves mental functioning, emotional and social relationships, physical health and performance, spiritual and intuitive relationships, and awareness. The list can continue at any depth you choose.
To do all of that, it would seem you would need to practice a full suite of exercises, each aimed at a different result. But it doesn’t work like that. Although such approaches do exist in self help practices, many traditional forms of meditation, including Natural Meditation, do not develop techniques targeted to individual results. Natural Meditation consists of a single, simple practice that allows the flow of wisdom and health to come as it will. When it comes, its effects can be anywhere on the 360° horizon of life.
How can it be that a single, simple process can produce wide-ranging effects? It is simply that meditation functions from the center, or core, of experience. The core is the body, mind, feelings, and spirit. It’s the entire dynamic web of mind and body. It’s that through which we live—all the physical senses (smelling, seeing, etc.), the emotions (love, disgust, etc.), the actions of the mind (observing, disagreeing, inventing).
At the very
center of the core of experience sits something we call the “self.” All thoughts
and feelings and sensations pass through this core. So, anything that sharpens
and energizes the core of experience improves everything that a person
experiences. Every day this core ebbs and flows several times, and as it goes,
so goes our experience. When we are bright and clear, we produce brightly and
clearly, and we take in whatever is coming our way with brightness and clarity.
As we tire, consciousness shifts and our whole world shifts with it. Outside this core,
lies the ever-popular periphery of experience. It has these sorts of
The periphery dominates most of our outer attention. All our personal endeavors, our projects, mix and tangle the core of experience with the periphery. This mix gives the outer biography of a life. It is what we spend most of our attention on when we talk to each other about our lives. A friend might tell us, “I studied accounting last year so that I could get a leg up in my applications for a job in Boston and be near John. We plan on getting married next summer and will be taking a bike trip this fall.” We behave as if these stories, our outer biographies, are the stuff of life, but are they really? The essence of what matters to us is not what we put in words. It is something behind the scenes. We lack a good vocabulary and an acceptable forum for discussing it, but it is there nonetheless. In the terms we are discussing here, it could be called the quality of the core.
In the example just given, behind the outer story of studying accounting to go to Boston lies an awake, energized mind, and a capable body. An activated happy energy is implied by that story. If that core were dimmed or weakened, it would produce a different biography. Perhaps the year would be spent in meandering without direction or hope. Behind the plan to move to Boston lies a hope-filled heart, an activated mate-seeking, love-making sexuality. Dim that down, and away goes John, Boston, and the bike trip. You can dim it with a physical disease, a broken leg, broken heart, confused mind, and so forth. Each knob you would turn to dim that person is a knob connected to the core of experience.
Choosing to spend some of your limited budget of time and creative energy on changing and improving your inner core is very prudent. It is a most efficient and enriching choice. And it is not one that our general culture helps us make, which is why this is a road less taken. Generally our culture swirls us in a morass of messages drawing us outward, inspiring us to live at the edges rather than in the core of experience, exchanging our time and energy for the chance to get something new.
So, meditation is simply one more way of making life better. All living things spend their days trying in one way and another to make life better. From a single, basic and persistent drive for betterment we create “the ten thousand things”, some magnificent in our eyes and some horrific. Homo Sapiens works harder and smarter at this than any other beast. Yet, for all the variety and cleverness we bring to our projects, most of our striving looks like that of every other animal in this one respect: it aims at the contents of our environment. Fortunately, we spend some of our creative energy trying to change ourselves, rather than the environment. When we do that, when we focus on self-development in any of its forms, we show one face of our human uniqueness.
Changing oneself to improve life takes a certain Homo Sapiens kind of right stuff. First, it requires the ability to imagine a future different from the present and past. Then it requires the conscious recognition that everything we experience comes through our body, mind, feelings, and spirit. Finally, it takes the logical mind and will-creating heart to put it all together into a conviction that working to improve the functioning of the core will benefit the whole spectrum of life.
Meditation, a uniquely human activity, emerges from this combination of imagination, consciousness, logic, will and conviction. It is not a dog or cat’s sunshine meditation, but a progressive action undertaken for long-range improvement across the full spectrum of life.Previous Idea — Next Idea