If you were to ask ten different meditators what meditation is, you would likely get ten different answers. To me, it is unimportant that we agree about what meditation is. What is important is the curiosity and deep inquiry that leads us to find our own answers to this question.
Today, I will share with you my reflections on meditation, using a quote from Nisargadatta, an Indian sage, as a jumping off point:
All I can say truly is “I am,” all else is inference. But the inference has become a habit…Learn to look without imagination, to listen without distortion. That is all. Stop attributing names and shapes to the essentially nameless and formless, realize that every mode of perception is subjective, that what is seen or heard, touched or smelt, felt or thought, expected or imagined, is in the mind and not in reality, and you will experience peace and freedom from fear.
For me, meditation spontaneously arises when I let go of all inferences about who and what I am and what everything else is… when all resistance to fully experiencing the present moment is released. This simple surrender is a portal to communion with the infinite.
Before I go any further, know that I make no claims to be an authority on meditation. I see myself as a fellow journeyer on the path walking side by side as we explore this human existence. I began “meditating” in college, upon reading a required text for a Japanese Tea Ceremony elective class entitled, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki. The reason I put “meditating” in quotes is because (and I am smiling as I write this) what I was doing during that time period as I sat with legs folded and eyes closed looked more like struggling and resisting than any type of meditation! However, as Shunryu encourages: “be grateful for the weeds you have in you mind, because eventually they will enrich your practice.” Another way of stating this is that “we come to nirvana (enlightenment) by way of samsara (illusion).”
Over the ensuing twenty years, I have explored various spiritual practices with origins ranging from yoga to Buddhism to new age thought. In retrospect, very little of the time I’ve spent in those explorations has been true meditation as I have come to understand it. Most of what I was doing was manipulating my breath, my thoughts, my movements, and my beliefs in an effort to achieve a certain experience.. I don’t view these various forms of manipulation as “good” or “bad.” In fact, if you have read any of my other articles, you know that I engage in intention-based practices with great regularity, as I see our ability to shape our human experience through the way we think and act as a divine gift of creative power. However, I view true meditation as something altogether different. I believe that true meditation has no goals or objectives, other than to see things as they are. As paradoxical is it may seem, there is no reason to meditate other than for the intrinsic value of the experience of meditation.
Yet, ironically, I derive immense benefit in my daily life as a result of my meditation practice. However, when meditation is approached from an orientation of seeking to improve oneself or reap benefit, it loses its power and meaning. This doesn’t keep me from recommending a regular meditation practice to anyone who suffers from stress and anxiety. Yes, I know, there are lots of contradictions. I remember my brain getting tied in knots the first time I read Suzuki’s comment “To go one mile to the west means to go back one mile to the east.” (LOL)
For those of you just embarking on your exploration of meditation, you may find the above “broad stroke” comments as not very helpful at best, and confusing and disheartening at worst in guiding you on your path into your own practice. Yet, if you’ve read this far, there is something in you that recognizes value in this line of inquiry.
In next week’s Part 2 of this article, I will examine the above quote about how “All I can say truly is ‘I am’, all else is inference,” and how a deeper experience of this truth can lead you to a place of peace.
Yours in radiant health and curiosity,
Joe Curcio, L. Ac.