Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Confrontation with God: the unspeakable truth!

I've been meditating for decades and teaching meditation publicly for at least half of those decades. Whenever I am tempted (in writing articles or speaking) to start describing "God" I know I'm heading down a slippery slope (to hell? or, to hell with it?). Can we just agree that "God is Infinite" and therefore beyond definition? That would make my article here easier to write, ok?

If you, as a reader, have been taught to meditate anywhere in the Ananda world you will know that we describe meditation as having three stages. Using these or other English words, we begin with Stage 1: Relaxation. In this we might use yoga or similar stretches to relax and also energize the physical body as we transition from ordinary activities towards sitting in meditation.

Stage 2 consists of internalizing our awareness and focusing our attention inwardly. We might chant, use a creative visualize, work with the breath, or observe the breath in a popular mindfulness technique which, in our version of it, Paramhansa Yogananda called, simply, "Hong Sau." There are many other techniques, some more advanced, such as Kriya Yoga.

Stage 3 is when we leave behind all techniques and sit in the silence. Hands down this is, for most meditators, the most difficult phase. Here, we let go completely of doing and relax into "being." While there are elements of this process in Stages 1 and 2, in Stage 3 its a bare-bones, down and out fist fight with the ego to shut up, let go, and go away!

So it's not God we are confronting, it's the ego. And yet, to the ego, it IS God we are confronting and "he don't want nothin' to do with Him." It's like a possessed person being confronted by a saint who commands that the evil entity leave the body of the possessed person. The ego kicks and spits and sends out a blistering diatribe of useless, dumb, or purposely hot-button images.....anything to keep our soul nature from emerging from the ego's prison of self-and-body-pre-occupation.

Oh, yes, there are moments of sweetness, calmness, joy, and surrender. But as Deepak Chopra described meditation: it's the "space BETWEEN our thoughts." I don't care much for this negative definition but I confess that for millions of meditators it's probably closer to the truth of their actual experience.

I could write a book about this issue and share ideas taken from Paramhansa Yogananda, and from my teacher (and Ananda's founder), Swami Kriyananda, and from the Yoga Sutras (Patanjali) and from the long and rich tradition of God-realized yogis and saints. But, well, I have other things to do, too. [There are some pointers to meditators that I could give here but .... maybe some other time.]

This is an unspeakable topic in the sense that a teacher of beginning meditation wants to inspire and encourage, not discourage new students. When I contemplate the challenge and what it takes to consistently have meditations where the ego-mind subsides into silence, and the invisible presence of the powerful, loving, joyful, and/or expansive God of the Self "appears," I tremble.

Yet there's a simplicity in truth. The simple truth of "seeing" God is that you really, really, really have to want to. Does that sound dumb? Trite? Well, too bad for you because it's really, really, really true!

We Ananda teachers enjoy telling the story about Paramhansa Yogananda's first kriya yoga disciple (a Boston dentist named Dr. Lewis) who confronted Yogananda, insisting that he be given a taste of cosmic consciousness. After pestering Yogananda repeatedly, Yogananda one day grabbed Dr. Lewis' (wide) lapels, bringing their foreheads close together and said, "Doctor, if I gave it to you, could you take it?" Dr. Lewis being given "stiff shot" of the stuff (so to speak), lowered his eyes and said meekly, "No sir."

When, even in fleeting moments, we are faced with what seems like the possibility of becoming the Self--this immense, invisible, overwhelming Self--the ego invariably stops and asks for a metaphorical "rain check." Like St. Augustine who prayed, "Make me good, Lord, but not yet."

Part of us does; part of us doesn't. Usually, and until only after great and repeated effort and grace, the part aligned with habit wins out. The "demon" of God has to be confronted and wrestled with. I say "demon" because that's more or less how the ego sees it.

It is devotion and the childlike faith and trust of our true Self that dissolves the invisible but ego-built barrier between me and Me and You. You have to sincerely and purely (and for no other reason) want God alone; Love alone; love without condition or expectation. You have to "know" without second thought that there is nothing greater worth having or being. You have to be convinced to your atoms that there is no other thing, desire, experience, person, or state of greater value. No opinion, no talent, no fantasy worth keeping.

I don't want to discourage anyone. After all, meditation has so many benefits (physical, mental and spiritual) that it really doesn't matter that you haven't "hit the wall," or even seen the darn thing yet. "Sufficient unto the day" is the meditation thereof.

Yet we are all -- beginning meditators and lifelong meditators -- confronted, at least sometimes, with the struggle and the wrestle with that invisible state and presence that calls to us out of the darkness of our unknowing. Is it a demon or an angel? We really don't know. Aren't my thoughts (and plans for the day) important? We won't know until we enter the arena. We won't know whether we are wrestling the ego or the angel until one of us, of them, succumbs to the other.

Entering the arena, then, is a supreme act of faith, and love. Faith is born of love and love, of faith. As Job said in the Old Testament, "Naked I came out of the womb and naked shall I return thither." We must leave everything thought, every self-identification, desire, memory, fear....all of it behind not knowing "whence I go."

I leave now chanting Yogananda's chant: "I shall be roaming, roaming, roaming...."


Nayaswami Hriman