Idea #9: Natural Meditation’s Ten-Step Agenda Puts Projects Aside
Let’s take a look at the ten basic steps of the Natural Meditation agenda or recipe. The following is an abstract and concise description of the steps. The details necessary to make full sense of this will come in subsequent Ideas in this course and through experience. After one or two times meditating through this agenda, you won't even think of the process as having this many discrete elements. It will just seem like: starting, meditating, ending.
In the first four steps, we treat the body and mind gently, establishing a restful position that can be maintained for 20 minutes or so. We let the body move in any way to remain comfortable, but since it has a strong habit of sleeping when lying down, we sit up. In the fifth, sixth and seventh steps we ease into a neutral state of non-striving. These steps are the key that opens the window to meditation. And that key is:
Gently putting aside for a few minutes, the project-making tendencies of the mind.
We use the term project-making to refer to a healthy, deeply ingrained and necessary feature of human consciousness that is closely associated with the term ego. Project-making involves a keen and continuous sense of the self and its relationship to the many elements in the environment. It especially refers to the activities of pushing and pulling against the elements of the environment to accomplish something that we want. When we push and pull, we not only accomplish things on the outside, but we inwardly receive a keener sensation of our individual existence. The project-making capability of the mind not only works on long activities, like building a vegetable garden. It also works minute-by-minute in the self-projecting thoughts that we engage to accomplish our will, thoughts as simple as, "It sounds like the mail has just arrived. I hope Jess sent me something. I will go check."
Although the project-making mind is necessary for individual existence, it is only one part of the psychological diet. Having too much striving and self-expression is as common in the West as having too much protein in the diet. Something good is being overdone. Meditation provides a much-needed balance. Meditation is an intentional, temporary walking away from self-expressive thought and action. In meditation, we let thoughts float in and out without engaging them or feeding them. At first this can seem difficult because we are so used to working on things, and the process of learning how to meditate is itself a bit of a project. So, to ease ourselves out of striving, we use the ten-step agenda.
Notice that the agenda of Natural Meditation adds nothing from culture, religion or philosophy. It aims solely at an effective eliciting of the meditative function. Many meditation methods have complex, colorful agendas that are important for cultural or religious reasons. But there’s a problem: wherever the meditative agenda is rich, it can easily attract and hold the project-maker, which may be the opposite of what is intended. The ego likes sweet richness as much as the tongue does. Such meditations can become yet another tool for self-expression and can easily dilute or block the natural flow of the meditative function. Spiritual aspirants can be sucked into this sweet richness. Trungpa warned of the tendency of spiritual practices to become projects of the ego and named it “spiritual materialism.” The spare, efficient, ten-step agenda of Natural Meditation is a fine formula for what he called cutting through spiritual materialism in the book by that name.
End of Chapter Two — Next Idea