Sunday, July 26, 2015

DON’T MEDITATE TO ‘GET’ SOMETHING!

‘Meditation is a state of mind which looks at everything with
complete attention, totally, not just parts of it.’ J. Krishnamurti.

I have a good friend (let’s call him Steve) who is a scientist---a physicist, to be exact. He taught physics in universities in Australia and Canada. Steve and his wife regularly attend meetings of my home fellowship. He is one of the most learned and scholarly persons I’ve ever known, but he finds it extremely difficult to meditate.

Yes, when it comes to our guided meditation, Steve seems either unable or unwilling to ‘let go’, even to the extent of closing his eyes and staying still for just a few seconds. He fidgets and constantly moves around in his chair and is clearly uncomfortable at the thought of any form of meditation, even meditation of the most naturalistic kind.

Perhaps the reason for Steve's 'resistance' is that, as a disciplined scientist, he always wants to know and control. he is also a skeptic, which goes with the territory, so to speak. A good thing, skepticism. Doubt, not faith, is the name of the game. Steve relies entirely upon facts and evidence, that is, on what he can see and know, and also on inferences and conclusions that can be drawn rationally from the available evidence. 

Now, I admire that, for I, too, am very much the empiricist. I, too, reject supernatural, occult and all other unobservable explanations of the otherwise observable conditions of existence. ‘The things that can be seen, heard and learned are what I prize most,’ wrote Heraclitus. True, very true, but meditation can indeed be ‘something’ that is seen, heard and learned.

Steve recently said to me, ‘I have trouble with mindfulness meditation.’ I say to him, ‘Steve, you do practise mindfulness all the time, but you don’t seem to realize it. Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose. It is being aware, including being aware of your awareness---and even your unawareness. Mindfulness is doing one thing at a time, purposefully and knowingly---like when you're reading a scientific journal article which requires all of your focus, awareness and and attention. That is mindfulness, and you are engaged in a form of meditation more often than you think---even when you're driving your car or washing the dishes. You get my point, don’t you?’ Steve, ever the skeptic, begrudgingly answered, ‘Yes. I suppose I do.’


Many people have a terrible fear of ‘losing control’. Ironically, a lot of these people are already ‘out of control’ in that their lives are controlled by fears, phobias, addictions and compulsions that are seemingly beyond their personal or conscious control. Now, one thing meditation is not is this---it is not ‘mind control’ in the sense of subjugation, sublimation or suppression. Meditation is being choicelessly (that is, non-judgmentally) aware of what is.

In order to properly meditate you must go gently … and take it easy. More importantly, the ‘effort’ involved in meditation is of a relaxed albeit deliberate kind. It has been described as the ‘effort of no-effort.’ ‘Resist not’ is the important principle involved.

Back to Steve. I said to him, ‘When it comes to our group mindfulness, or your own practice of it, you will never lose control, go into some trance, or otherwise lose contact with external reality. At any time you can cease your meditation and go about your ordinary business.’ He seemed a bit happier, but I don’t think I have fully convinced him. He’s a hard case, but I love him. He is a man of integrity---and great intelligence. That may sound patronizing, but it’s damn true.

One more thing. We must never meditate to get something---not even peace of mind or happiness. If you meditate to get something, more often than not you will fail. If you want peace of mind or happiness you need to ‘let go’ of everything that is holding you back from enjoying peace of mind and happiness. The Buddha was right when he spoke of the need to eradicate the causes of our unhappiness in order to be happy. Listen to these nuggets of wisdom from the great Buddhist teacher Ajahn Chah [pictured right]:

‘Remember you don't meditate to “get” anything, but to get “rid” of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you “want” anything, you won't find it.

‘We practise to learn letting go, not to increase our holding on. Enlightenment appears when you stop wanting anything.’

Krishnamurti [pictured top left] made a similar point when he said, ‘Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.

Letting go is never easy. All too often, we hold on to things, including negative emotions and states of mind, that are making and keeping us sick and unhappy. We get a perverse pleasure from being miserable.

Take charge---and let go.



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