Ideas Presented in Chapter 3
Idea 13. Follow a Direct, Gentle Returning without Concentrating
In all forms of disciplined thinking such as meditation, the mind cycles in and out of the intended action of the disciple. The mind cycles through periods of doing what is intended, followed by forgetting to do what is intended, followed eventually by a sudden recall of what is intended and a returning to the task. Meditation methods differ both in their intended actions (the doing phase) as well the rules of re-engagement after a forgetting (the returning phase).
In Natural Meditation, as soon as you recall that you are meditating, you return, but you must do so gently. We emphasize this because being gentle is not generally what is implied by concentration, and meditation is often strongly associated with concentration, especially by people who have done a lot of reading on the subject. If you have such an association between meditation and concentration, you will have to be especially mindful of your approach to Natural Meditation, because,
Natural Meditation does not work if you concentrate to make it work.
You will learn about this in detail in Chapter Four, after you have begun your own practice of Natural Meditation. Happily, it is not hard not to concentrate. So, the requirements of Natural Meditation are not tricky in this regard. But many people first coming to meditation cannot walk away from their belief that concentrating and meditation go hand-in-hand. This is understandable, given the frequent use of the words concentrate, and focus by writers on the topic.
In concentration methods, the return to the object after forgetting can be quick, but is not simple and innocent. It entails some form of internal push or pep talk intended to get you back on track and keep you there. If these pep talk thoughts were verbalized they would sound like, “You are concentrating! You have just slipped off the object again! Get back there and stay put this time! That’s good! Hold on, hold on!”
These pep talks are useful for concentrating on projects, but they seriously inhibit the natural functioning of meditation. While they come out of a well-intentioned desire to stay on track, they do not encourage the meditative function to come on stage. Concentration as a state of mind is one thing. Concentration as an exercise is quite another. Developing settled attentiveness does not require concentration exercises. Such exercises can produce a stronger mental muscle, but they also inhibit the meditative function because they feed the project-making tendency of the mind. They keep the mind in one place, compacted and tight, rather than letting it open up to experience the unexpected spaces that comprise the nature of the mind in its essential state.
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