The memoirs of a wannabe meditator searching for the truth
It all starts with the premise that a person that is fully enlightened, is a person that lives constantly in the present moment [for more on what the "present moment" actually is, see "The Power Of Now" by Eckhart Tolle]. The present moment is also known as complete awareness, clear vision, vast expansion of consciousness etc etc. In all honesty, it is truly magical to achieve this rare experience, even for a fraction of a second. Maybe you had that glimpse already sometime in the past, but you didn’t know what it was, or how to call it.
So far so good. But in truth, on an average day, my best guess is that we don’t even spend a single second in the present moment, not even one in the 86,400 seconds that we have in a day. Not a single one. All day we are bombarded with thoughts and turbulent emotions that take us left and right. So the idea is to first achieve one second of stillness, then two, then five and so on until we manage to maintain a seamless presence throughout our day. Sounds simple? Or rather simplistic? In all truth, it couldn’t be more simplistic than that.
Meditation is certainly one of the paths to experience the present moment. In practice, meditation is one of the most difficult things I have ever tried in my life. On a bad day, it’s a total waste of time; it’s frustrating and demotivating to say the least. On a good day, my minds drifts away at least 50,000 times, before I pull it back every single time and continue, pretending that nothing happened.
The trick is supposed to be practice and persistence. I’d hate to believe this, but in no matter how much my stubbornness might want to dismiss, it might well be the case. As babies, we think walking is absolutely impossible. How many times of crashing on your face does it take till you face reality and admit it’s not for you? 100, 200, 300? Still, we all made it, because we practiced. Next, it was talking (some found that so fascinating they haven’t stopped since). Then reading, riding a bicycle, finding a girlfriend, making it to uni, learning snowboarding, surfing and so on and so on. Everything in life seems to be a matter of effort and practice. And luck. Or isn’t it that simple?
Somehow I hesitate to believe that Enlightenment is a matter of effort and practice. If that was the case, many or most of our spiritual establishment, monks, priests and nuns would be Enlightened by now after hard training, and in turn they would have been able to guide the rest of us in life, leaving an army of shrinks and life coaches into unemployment and despair. But that is not the case. So where is the missing link?
The truth is that most achievements in life involve the intellect, our brain. In contrast, they say true meditation is originating from the heart. What does that exactly mean? Most people try to meditate from their minds, because that’s what they use most of the day. In truth, the intellect has nothing to do with meditation. Meditation is the death of the intellect, the deafening silence of the mind. For example, do you THINK you love someone, or you actually just love them? Some things don’t fit into the intellect, as they don’t come from there in the first place. Hence there is nothing to think about. When you are dead-tired, do you sit and think about the pros and cons of sleeping, and which style of sleeping is best to do tonight, or you just do it, WITHOUT THINKING? Now that you are reading this, are you stopping from time to time to breathe? Do you actually have to think in order to breath? How about when you are thirsty, when you are hungry? When you already love somebody, do you analyze the advantages and disadvantages, or is it something way beyond thinking?
All the above just happen, and there is nothing to think about simply because they are not anywhere in the sphere of the intellect, of the mind. They don’t come from there, so they can’t be accessed, evaluated, qualified or measured in our brain. Equally, meditation is nowhere near the mind. Actually, it has nothing to do with it. This is why it is so difficult for most of us. So how do we tap into it?
In this process we have to understand and overcome the barriers of the ego. You’ve heard this word before, haven’t you? I personally despise this word, but I shouldn’t. The ego is the sixth of the seven layers of existence. From gross to subtle, the first layer is our physical body, and the seventh is our soul. The soul is oneness with the entire universe, the drop of water falling back into the ocean. It is the understanding of masters, gurus and rishis that as a person we are not a separate, standalone, independent unit, but a tiny part of everything, of it all. It comes in many names. Existence, Universe, God, Brahman, Cosmic Energy, just to name a few. It is difficult however to understand that, as every single one of us has their own, separate physical body.
So we all have separate physical bodies, and logically we assume that we are entirely separate entities. Because we think we are totally separate, we need to build an identity, otherwise we cannot survive. And then we self-assign attributes, and do this on others as well, because we perceive them as separate, different beings. And so we are labeled with a name, a nationality, a language, a religion, a political belief, an education, a title, a profession, and the list never ends. It seems we cannot survive without differentiating ourselves, distancing and separating from everyone else, building and constantly validating your own identity (e.g. someone who loses his job might have an identity crisis while unemployed). Sure, we have separate, different physical bodies and that is a fact. But there is much more than we can see. And in the mean time, the little voice tells us all the time what we are and what we are not. This is our ego.
This is exactly the system that needs to shut down during meditation. Funnily enough, this is the very chatterbox that will not stop during meditation itself. Coincidence? I don’t think so. However meditation is not about killing or eliminating the ego. We need the ego to survive and to function. What we need to do is to understand it, and eventually bypass it, for it is an insecure, loud, spoilt little child that needs constant attention and acknowledgement. It is about mastering the untamed child, make it quiet for some time so we can open up to our soul and connect.
I was talking today to a very spiritual person here at the ashram. We had an amazing conversation. And when I asked him what is the secret of meditation and living in the present moment, he looked at me with the biggest smile in his face, and said: “Relax, man!”.
He was right. It’s not what you expect to hear from a guru, do you? But there I was again, trying to rationalize the irrational. And then I noticed that he was right: He was actually much more relaxed, happy and smiling than I was. He was content, at ease, not struggling, pushing, fighting, analyzing. It was more of the art of letting go, surrendering. Meditation was maybe not something to be obsessed about; it was only just a way, or one of the possible ways. It was not a destination, a prize, a trophy. Take my grandmother for example. She is a very wise and content person. She has never meditated in her life. But she prays every day. You may also have people in your life that have found their own way, magically, somehow. People that are content and wise, radiating love. It is for you and me to find out our own way to connect with our higher self, no matter what that way is. And reserve some personal time every day to give it a try, gently, almost effortlessly, to connect.
So if you are struggling with meditation as much as I do, don’t take any of this too seriously, and most importantly don’t take life too seriously: We are here to laugh, to play and live, not stress, worry and think too much. If we don’t stop from time to time and smell the flowers as they say, we will live a tense, busy, anxious and unfulfilling life, maybe with a lot of achievements but with a sense that we have maybe missed the entire point. And you don’t want to leave this life with a sense of incompleteness, guilt or remorse for things that you never had time to do, enjoy, cherish.
And just as I was typing that last sentence, here in the middle of this warm night in southern India, a firefly landed on my hand and started blinking, on and off, on and off. Who knows why, who she was, or what she was thinking. She was just blinking. That’s what fireflies do. On, off, on, off. I didn’t even have time to think. And without thinking, I caught myself with a very big smile on my face. If you think about it, in the best moments in our lives we don’t think. So stop thinking about it! Goodnight.
Posted from Bangalore, Karnataka, India.