detailed yellow flower
Ideas Presented in Chapter 4

14

15

16

17

18

19


[2,000words]

Idea #19: Embrace the Shift to Openness

A complete understanding of the technique of Natural Meditation includes an understanding of what we avoid doing as well as what we embrace. This may be summarized as the following two rules or guides:

  1. Don't do anything extra. Do not create mantra rhythms, force a clear or correct pronunciation, push for effects, or push out thoughts, feelings, sounds.
  2. Do embrace the direction of meditation. Embrace the expanding inner space and relaxing of body. Allow yourself to settle down and open up, even if this makes you less focused with respect to details of the environment.

The "don't" rule has been pretty well hammered home by now. Now we need to expand upon the second rule. The first rule is incomplete by itself, and it's a bit bleak. It's like telling your kids about a vacation trip by saying, "We are not going to the ocean, and not to Grandma's, not to camp, and not anywhere hot." With nothing but the "not" statements, they can only guess at where they are going. It is the same with meditation. The heart and mind need a description of where we are going. The second rule helps with that. It encourages us to embrace the changing and expanding interior landscape. Notice it does not ask us to create that landscape, because that would directly contradict the first rule.

Although we cannot—and should not try to—create an expanding consciousness, we can adopt a welcoming easiness about it. When springtime arrives with its lengthening days and warming expansiveness, there is nothing at all we can do to affect its arrival, but we can certainly make its arrival more meaningful by pausing to appreciate it, understand it, and welcome it as it comes. This is the way to receive the changes in the interior weather of meditation.

This embracing is not a sentiment or mood. It is a patient acceptance of a ride that nature is actually offering us in the very moment of meditation. For those who believe that the human structure is the work of a Creator, it is appropriate to consider that ride as being offered by the Creator. The ride carries each of us in our own good time, in a fully organic, comfortable way, without damaging side effects. This ride is the essence of meditation. If these changes did not occur in these sittings, we would not be calling this meditation.

You might have run across meditation writers who speak against meditation methods that lack conceptual content, meditations that are not about something profound. Just “repeating a mantra”, as they might put it, seems like a poor use of the meditative opportunity. But, Natural Meditation is not just mantra repetition. In a basic mantra meditation, the plan is to sub-vocalize the mantra over and over and over. It can be done quickly or slowly, often in a rhythm, with each instance of the mantra being the same. Unlike Natural Meditation, such techniques aim at a clean sameness and rhythmic presence of the mantra, with no wandering thoughts, like this: (m)-(m)-(m)-(m)-(m)-(m)-(m)-(m)-(m)-(m)-(m)-(m)-(m)…

In Natural Meditation, of course, we do not treat the mantra as an object to be packed into the mind, nor do we require that it be the same or rhythmic. The recalling of the mantra is really a moment of being mindful. Instead of being mindful of the mantra as an object, Natural Meditation technique allows the mantra to become transparent so that we "see through" the mantra into what lies behind it, into our own awareness. The mantra is like a window. We don't focus on its shape or its surface, but use it to frame an expansive view.

We do not use the mantra to cover up awareness, but to reveal it.

Each mantra moment moves the mind in the dynamic canoe ride we spoke of in Ideas #14 and #15. The mantra moment is an awareness moment. That is all. It is not a robotic cycling back to home base over and over. Rather, it is a traveling, a movement, a transition to a state of newness of mind.

The direction of meditation is toward awareness itself, the non-specific, non-colored, non-shaped light that supports all specific forms of awareness.

In time, the ride of meditation opens the infinite range of human consciousness. This is very personal and does not easily lend itself to verbal descriptions, much less to ordinary English text. It is not a simple concept and has become the subject of lifelong study for scholarly people in many cultures of the world for several thousands of years. Therefore, do not worry if this all sounds strange and hard to categorize. There is no need to grasp this matter during this course. However, it is important to look at some concepts about the direction of meditation.

You remain in your seat. Meditation’s direction does not take us off into another world. It is not a change of scenery for the senses. Do not expect to begin seeing and hearing things outside of the ordinary environment, (seeing through things or across distances or reading minds, etc.) although these do happen occasionally to some people. The great religious meditation traditions advise that anyone who experiences these sensations should be unimpressed with them. The alternative would be to get involved with them, expecting them, liking them, being pleased with yourself for having them, trying to make them return, and telling people you have these experiences in order to give yourself a boost of self-esteem.

You remain in your person. Meditation’s direction is not out of the self, as in a trance, but remaining more profoundly with the self. At the same time, one can expect that meditation will bring about a discovery of new dimensions of the self. The direction of meditation is a settling into the root of the self, the inner core of experience, as introduced in Idea #2. The core is that "non-specific, non-colored, non-shaped light that supports all specific forms of awareness" just mentioned. It is that which receives objects of experience and which supports individual thoughts. Experientially this core is what we imply in sentences that use "I" as the subject.

Look at these simple, ordinary sentences, most of which could be said by a five-year-old.

This sequence maps the direction of meditation. It moves from the outer to the inner, becoming increasingly abstract. At the center of each sentence is an "I" or a "my" that refers to something abstract, something that no one can really point to, see or touch. The self is something that is only known, one at a time, by its owner. Yet, the sentences themselves are as ordinary as can be. Even the last sentence, the most abstract, can come from the mouth of a child. So, the self, or the person, is a common reality, although abstract in the extreme. Meditation methods like Natural Meditation simply let us sit with  this abstract reality.

You loosen your connection to the objects of experience. As one settles into the root of consciousness, the objects of experience (thoughts, sensations) become less dominating. The mantra, too, can become faint, transparent or abstract, and orientation to space, to the body, and even to one’s life shifts similarly. It is something like rising a 100 feet above a field of friends at a picnic by climbing a tree. The people are still there and you can hear them if you like, but you are in a place dominated by space and altitude, and that occupies your awareness more fully than do the people and objects below. Because of your new placement, you see things in a different perspective and at a different level of focus.

In meditation thoughts do not literally look farther away, but they can be perceived within a spaciousness that makes them seem less concrete and less connected to oneself. The reason for this shift is not that we are becoming less interested in things, but that we are becoming more rooted in our own essential nature, which is larger and more enduring that anything particular we can experience. We are knowing the self in a deeper way, at a more enduring level, and objects of experience come and go within that.

You experience pure consciousness and the essence of the self. This root of the self is sometimes referred to as pure consciousness, the basic awareness that supports all experience. Pure consciousness is the basis of the mixed consciousness we have when experiencing thoughts, feelings, and objects. This is like the images on a movie screen. The light of the projector is like pure consciousness, while the moving, colored shapes of light on the screen are like compound consciousness. In deep sleep, we have no awareness, but when we begin to awaken, an awareness "light" turns on, allowing dim experience of thoughts, sensations and perceptions. As we become fully awake, the experience of these objects sharpens and deepens. The sense of ownership of these experiences also deepens and sharpens. In general, we become quite bonded to the objects of experience, believing that they represent the full spectrum of our existence. As a result, we miss the underlying nature of consciousness itself. Through meditation, we have the opportunity to see how the show is put together. We see the objects, but we also appreciate the awareness in which these objects are registered.

In meditation, although we remain oriented to a single thought, we settle to the root of consciousness, doing so in many indiscernible stages, like an autumn leaf settling in a lake.  Maharishi Mahesh Yogi likes to represent this as a descent to the bottom of the ocean of the mind. He shows the mechanics of thought as bubbles rising from the infinitely abstract source of consciousness to the surface of the mind where they can be perceived by ordinary awareness. Different thoughts are shown on the horizontal while the vertical direction represents the level of awareness at which a particular thought can be experienced. During TM and Natural Meditation, as well as a great many other methods, the technique encourages “vertical movement.” The attention picks up thoughts at earlier and earlier stages, each more subtle. That movement is the gem of meditation. It is the seed of enlightenment.

English lacks a non-cultural, non-religious word for the vertical shift in consciousness. This lack is part of the broader social situation in the West regarding meditation. In the early 1960s, or earlier, Maharishi chose the word transcend to name this vertical shift. In 1963 he wrote in The Science of Being,

To experience this transcendental reality it is necessary for our attention to be led through all the subtle strata of creation. Arriving at the subtlest level, it will transcend that experience and come to the field of transcendental Being. [Chapter two.]

Although the word transcend carries connotations from religion and philosophy, it captures an important psychological reality: the mind moves in meditation. It also captures the fact that the mind moves through something and beyond something. Transcend, however, tends to imply a distinct difference between here and there, and this is not all that helpful. The transitions of consciousness actually proceed in infinite shades of difference, rather than as an "on" and "off" or "here" and "there." Transcend also connotes superiority and achievement, neither of which is consistently accurate or helpful.

The metaphor of meditation as riding a river presented in Idea #17 provides another visualization of the same thing. We can think of the flow as taking us from the headwaters of a river, where it is rocky, twisting, and shallow. We flow downstream where the river becomes deep, wide, and powerful. Boatfuls of thoughts can still be there, but they do not prevent the river from becoming wider, straighter, and deeper. Indeed, the river can carry much more in its mature downstream waters than it can in its rocky, shallow beginnings.

Rivers continue to flow downstream until they merge with another body of water and eventually all the waters must merge with an ocean or sea. Meditative growth has a similar destiny with pure consciousness and enlightenment.

Whatever image you prefer, embrace the graceful movement of consciousness during your sittings. The movement may not always be perceived, but when it is, enjoy it as the flowering of meditative awareness.

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