Exploring Meditation

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A reader asks, “Can the people who have a natural talent to quiet their thoughts and clean their mind, not by effort and struggling, but only through insight, point the way for others?”

I feel they can, or I wouldn’t be writing this column, though each person has to awaken meditation, or whatever name one gives it, for oneself. Meditation is an effortless state of awareness that comes into being when the observer is negated.

Meditation, as I’m using the word, is the highest action that the human being is capable. Ending the observer through passively observing, in the mirror of nature, the movement of thoughts and emotions as they arise, has become essential for individual health and human survival and development.

The reader avers, “as soon as you try to put this experience into words, your real experience and insight start fading away and the thought invades back into the mind.”

That’s true, but words aren’t the problem. Does a poet lose his or her insight because s/he writes beautiful poetry? One can indeed lose insight by writing or speaking, but only if one makes the words more important than the thing, out of a desire to capture the experience or for some other motivation. As long as one is enquiring, asking questions within oneself, insight is not lost.

But is there really an observation in which there is no observer? Yes, it’s not only possible, but also essential for the brain simply to observe, holistically, without the thought-made entity ‘I.’

Though it’s difficult, one simply has to observe the observer into stillness. In doing so, the deep habit of thought splitting off from itself as the ‘I’ ends, at least temporarily. Then there is just observation—that is, meditation.

Because the human brain has operated for so long in terms of symbols – words, images, concepts, etc. – we have to constantly relearn that the word is not the thing and the map is not the territory.

‘My self’ is not only an illusion; it’s a redundancy. Why do we accept the premise of the self? If we start from the idea of a separate self we will always end up with division and conflict.

The ‘me’ is an emotionally experienced separation and stockpile made by thought that seems to have permanence. For most people, the feeling of ‘myself’ lasts a lifetime, with no true break. But for people who awaken meditation, the continuity of the self ceases, at least for some timeless moments or minutes.

But isn’t it the ‘I’ that has the desire to meditate? The urge doesn’t come from the ‘me,’ but from the feeling of imbalance and disharmony. Just as the body, if one listens to it, tells one when to rest, the mind, if one pays attention, tells one when to be quiet and simply observe. Doing so provides even deeper rest for the brain than sleep.

Of course our motivations, as the cognitive and emotional spurs of thought, are very subtle. That’s why daily questioning and skepticism of one’s motives are essential.

If you observe yourself, you’ll notice that the mind is always separating itself from its own content. What is this observer that always seems to be separate from what it is observing? Nothing but thought splitting itself off from itself.

It’s difficult to observe the movement of one’s own mind indoors, though it’s necessary to be mindful in relationship. But there’s intrinsic interest watching nature, even just from the backyard, and that watchfulness naturally extends to self-awareness.

Meditation begins the moment that one sees, at a gut level, that where the mind is concerned, the observer and the observed are part of the same movement! In that moment separation instantly evaporates, and one truly sees a bird, or a person, as if for the first time.

The reader still asks: How does one negate the observer? ‘How’ implies a method, and the first thing is to be finished with all methods. Beyond that, all I can say is question and experiment with observation.

It isn’t a matter of avoiding judgments, evaluations, or reactions. One simply sets aside conscious analysis, and observes everything outwardly and inwardly as it arises, with the understanding that judgments are part of the entire field of thought/emotion. Judgments and evaluations are secondary, self-perpetuating reactions, and when one observes them as such, as part of the whole movement of thought, they fall away without one doing anything.

When the observer dissolves, there is just the movement of thoughts and emotions as they arise. Observing without the observer, the mind falls silent, and one sees and feels many things, and touches the hem of God.

Martin LeFevre