Thoughts on Meditation
"Ordinary meditation exercises aim in their earlier phases at rendering the mind concentrated and undistracted, and in their higher phases at resting in the Spiritual Self or in God--which usually means in a concept of God. Philosophic meditation exercises do this too but refuse to stop with a concept and seek to exclude all preconceptions from the mystical experience. They go farther still because they also expand the aim into contemplation of the infinity of being, the universality of consciousness, and the illusoriness of ego."
(Notebooks of Paul Brunton, vol. 11, cat 16, chapter 2, number 263)
Here's a thought or two on meditation.
think that becoming a meditator is like becoming a vegetarian - it leaves a lot of room for variety, and is no guarantee of health (chocolate's a vegetable, right?). So what follows is my own reaction to staring at this particular ink-blot:
seems to me to be three basic motives/modes of meditation: discipline, hygiene, and contact.
like being a vegetarian, fasting, studying specified texts, undertaking pilgrimages, are all expressions of the will. Since the will is innately subjective (c.f. K. C. Bhattacharyya), disciplining the will is basically to force it to correspond to some objective methodology, thus removing the will from the ego, which is good. But it also removes the will from the deeper self, which is eventually weakening and ultimately impossible. So the task here is to undertake a discipline long enough to thin out the ego, but not so long as to distort the soul. Meditation here is on the order of "just do it" - sit in a specific posture, at a specific time and place for a fixed length of time, while doing some basic action - repetition of a mantra, wiping the mind clean, staring at a mandala, counting breaths, etc. This is all right, if you like to count things.
- keeping the mind and psyche clean - is something of a knowing activity, in that the emphasis is on the results (a quiet mind, a silent ego) rather than on how you get there. There is no success here, any more than one takes a successful shower, or has successful feet. It's known to be a natural condition of the mind and psyche, and various instructions and initiations awaken us to this condition. Contemplating the Sunset, assimilating the wisdom of "Be Still & Know that I AM God" are far healthier contents of the mind than brooding upon family dynamics, Presidential idiocy, or the latest doings of Hannibal Lector. Having a healthy mind in a healthy body is just good human behavior; neither spiritual nor secular - just normal. Which is okay if you like normal.
Contact - comes from the feeling function. Here meditation is taken as a mode of contact and communication, and its practice is like that of becoming fluent in a language. The first phase is to decide what or whom do you wish contact with: your self, your Higher Self, Divinity, a Deity, or Reality? Each has its own language, and as such requires something of the investment of time and energy involved in learning any language. Bleah. First we have to learn the vocabulary, then the grammar and stock phrases, and finally, after lots of drills and - this is important - conversations with a native - we begin to have fluency. Holding the metaphor, if I want to talk to God, I will need a guide who knows that language; if I want to contact Brahman, I need eventually to meet with someone who "speaks Brahman." This mode, as is characteristic of all feeling enterprises, incorporates something of the other two (discipline and clarity of content), but adds - another. That other is what brings and sustains life to meditation, in my experience.
have found that reading the Yoga Sutras as koans rather than as dogma brings about a meditative state all by itself - you can't put a real koan or mahavakya in your mind without the mind having to become meditative in the process. Also sitting in the presence of the Teacher, or the Teacher's essence, or the Light, or the Silence, as living Reals, is helpful. Spending a chunk of time similar to that required for learning a language also helps - for me, being a little resistant to these things, I find that I have to sit for two or three hours at a time to break through the addictive momentum of the psyche and get down to work; I know others who, being quieter and cleaner to begin with, can enter the interior conversations in a matter of minutes. I have found that by spending up to five hours at a time in meditation, and taking advantage of any opportunity to meditate with a 'speaker' has - slowly - taught me a few things about meditation. Also reading PB, Chu Hsi, Patanjali, and even Plotinus (who has some exquisite visualization exercises, and gives instructions for entering each of the all 6 classical samâdhis).
to enter mediation feeling the living, powerful, intelligent and close proximity of Soul, Deity, Reality means that when you get up off the floor, that relationship will come with you, and provide you with much instruction and nourishment in many unexpected - as well as ordinary - circumstances.