Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Meditation: Are You Missing the Point?
I had an interesting discussion with a friend the other day. The topic we discussed is one that is very common among meditators but while there are lots of opinions, there is very little consensus. Here are some of the ways it is approached:
1. I have very little time. Should I spend my time practicing my technique(s) or should I simply sit in meditation?
2. I struggle with following the prescribed meditation routine that I have been taught. Practicing the routine can require more concentration than I have or want to give, or, I find them tedious and uninspiring.
3. I am faithful to my daily meditation routine but I don't feel I am making any progress or at least don't feel very much inspiration.
4. I have very little time to devote to meditation; I have many responsibilities; but I feel guilty about not fulfilling my pledge to meditate, including completing the practices I have committed to.
No matter how it’s stated, the basic issue is how to find inspiration from one's meditation.
Before I comment more usefully on this subject, let me remind us that meditation which is practiced "because I have to," or, "in the expectation of results" is already bound to be unsatisfying.
Why is this? This is because the very nature of inner peace is unconditional. It is devoid of compulsion or expectation.
I have lived in the ashram-like communities of Ananda most of my adult life. In meditating frequently, often daily, with others (often the same people day in and out), and, having taught meditation for many years, I understand how easy it is to mistake the practice of techniques for the goal of meditation.
There is a dialogue in AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI between the young Mukunda (Yogananda's name as a boy) and a saint he would frequently visit. The saint says to Mukunda: "You often go into the silence, but have you developed anubhava? He was reminding me,” Yogananda wrote, “to love God more than meditation. Do not mistake the technique for the goal."
Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras warns us (tongue in cheek, no doubt) against "missing the point."
We live in a technology and technique oriented culture. As one who teaches the family of meditation techniques that includes Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda, I see students come seeking to learn these techniques.
Too often a student imagines that the techniques themselves hold the promised reward of enlightenment. Because we tell them that belief is secondary to experience, they assume the experience of meditation born of the techniques of meditation will bring them what they seek.
Again, frequent articles based on scientific studies encourages the expectation that meditation is a panacea for all sorts of physical and mental maladies. Few stop to consider that even the most healthy, well-balanced, active, peace-loving, compassionate and creative individual may be very far from enlightened or unendingly blissful. Happy, well, yes but how dependable is human happiness in the face of Buddha’s threefold suffering: illness, aging, and death? (What to mention a veritable plethora of potential human woes around every corner!)
I would be a fool to attempt to define enlightenment but for the purposes of points I wish to make, let us posit the thesis that the purpose of meditation is to experience perfect stillness, Oneness or a state of ego transcendence. Obviously, then, perfect health (physical and mental) is none of these states.
Between the psycho-physiological benefits of meditation and a state of perfect stillness or ego transcendence lie recognizable and identifiable experiences in meditation. Most experienced meditators, for example, know what is inner peace, joy, love, or expanded awareness.
Therefore, for my purposes let's call these states the "goal" of meditation techniques and routines. Making it even simpler, let's say for the purposes of this article that INNER PEACE in meditation is my goal.
Therefore it must be the case that the technique(s) or routines of meditation that I practice are SECONDARY to my goal. They may of course help to achieve my goal. But are they ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY?
At first, when we learn to meditate, the routine and technique ARE substantially necessary and certainly useful to achieve consistent results with meditation. A person too lazy or lacking energy or intelligence, or one who cannot or refuses to learn the science of meditation, cannot thereby fault his "tools."
But with dedicated practice, the meditator learns to summon (mostly) at will the state of inner peace. To be clear, I am NOT saying that one should expect to be able to abandon meditation techniques or routines. A true technique (especially "guru-given") can take one to ever deeper states of meditation which are, in fact, “endless” because Oneness equates to Infinity and there’s no end to Infinity!!!! "Those too perfect for this world, adorn some other" the dry-witted Swami Sri Yukteswar (guru of Yogananda) once remarked.
What I AM saying, is that when pressed for time, or when internal resistance to the discipline of technique surfaces strongly, the meditator who can should simply enter at will the happy state of inner peace which is, in fact, our true goal. Of course, if he cannot do this, then it would be best to reach back into his tool kit of affirmations, prayer, chanting, mantra, or pranayama to kick start the energy needed to lift off (up).
My real point is that many meditators MISS the point and get bogged down in their own unhappy resistance to routine, or to the pressure of limited time, when, if they were more aware, could simply sit and realize they can enter into INNER PEACE at will! Or, if they are already feeling that deep peace even as they begin to sit, but believe they have to go through their routine first before being rewarded by inner peace, they should consider going with the flow of peace first.
If time allows and that peace wanes, then, by all means, go back to your routine to once again prime the pump!
The purpose of learning the techniques of one's profession, craft or art, is to go beyond them into the art of it. As a raft is left behind once one reaches the opposite shore, so are meditation techniques put aside when higher states appear.
Don't fool yourself in imagining that one or two blissful meditations means you can throw out your kriya beads. Nor should you imagine that feeling inner peace is the end game of true meditation. (Infinity, remember?) While meditation is both a science and an art, the science leads to the art (and not the other way around).
But real meditators struggle to find time for meditation. Real meditators struggle with guilt over not being able to practice the way they "should." Real meditators can sometimes get into a rut, practicing the same routine every day until it becomes stale.
Let us not, therefore, "miss the point" of meditation.
Joy and blessings,
Postscript: In another article I will share thoughts on making every moment of the active day a meditation; and, perhaps another article on specific ideas on how to keep your meditation routine fresh and inspired! A deeper aspect of this apparent dichotomy between technique and the goal is the integration of the two when “being” enters the “doing” and “doing” becomes “being.” This little phrase comes to me at this moment: “No-thing is the way to where Fullness comes to stay.”