Perhaps the practice of meditation has left you daunted and alone, hung drying from a rail of judgement and ill-communicated invitations. Meditation is not supposed to make us feel unworthy or incapable, nor does it seek to laude the wiser ones, and leave the rest of us lost forever. Meditation has no goals, no means and no attachment to us, and so, therefore, is for everyone. Kahlil Gibran’s “On Love”, reads “Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love.” If you have been presented with meditation as a discipline you cannot live up to, two things for today: 1. the person who presented it thusly was rude and unfair in their sharing, perhaps driven by ego? 2. You are free to create your own destiny around meditation and its influence in your life. A little is good, a lot is only better if it serves, and no other practice will be as potent as the one that feeds your soul and is of your own wild creation.
According to wikipedia, which, like meditation, is in and of itself a funny and beautiful example of a user-owned and managed operation, meditation is “a practice in which an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.” This says nothing of the how, just the goal, which is also up to the individual. The wiki waterfall goes on to light upon various modes of spiritual and religious tradition, each with similar and perfectly unique definitions of what it means “to meditate”. In Patanjali’s ashtanga system, dhyana – meditation, occurs after dharana – concentration, and only when the concentrator witnesses the object of their devotion as a part of a whole and unifying force. In the subtle shift from mindfulness in relaxed breath and body to a deep state of blissful consciousness and peace, the line is fine, perhaps immeasurable. But the alteration comes from a particular shift of attachment to the external world, liberating the thinker to become a non-thinker, and a lover. Concentration on a candle flame is dharana. Concentration on the light within, burning and flickering, steadily glowing as the winds of universal breath wash over, is dhyana. Rather than counting the backs of the heads in front of you on the bus, counting the cadence of your breath and noticing minute alterations as the bus rolls over potholes, is dharana. Watching the bobble of everyone’s head over the potholes and recognizing a shared cadence of respiration in everyone on the bus, a shared destiny of inspiration and expiration in each individual’s breath that merges into oneness with the pulse of an entire city, is dhyana. The big difference? The I.
In allowing your egoistic attachment to what your meditation must “be” to float off like a fart, meditation can begin. “Now we will meditate”, only rang from on high for me when the idea of what it might mean to meditate had become so blurred and illegible that I surrendered to continuing to sit down and see what happened. Sometimes the old standbys of candle-gazing and counting the breath are a welcome respite for a tired mind. The purpose is, of course, to awaken from the slumber of unconscious drudgery. To not forgive oneself for coming to the practice stuck in the mire of unconscious drudgery is equivalent to expecting one five minute meditation to change the whole world. On some level, every moment changes everything, yes, but we are often too distracted to see any effect whatsoever from our actions, especially the subtle ones we spend alone, breathing lightly and sitting still. If the purpose of the meditation is to weave an individual consciousness with one that is universal, representing all that is immeasurable and god-filled, rather than empty, then it seems sensible that the object of focus leading to integration would be just that universal God energy. Herein lies the rub: for many, God is a virtually impossible image or feeling to conjure up. (That’s why I’m meditating, geez.)
Perhaps if our attention is just focused on the things and the ones and the feelings that we love, shifts will begin. In the Narada Bhakti Sutras, the way that we love food is distinguished clearly from the way that we love our people, and also from the way that we love God. And yet, all are love. If we can learn to apply the way that we love something, anything at all that truly gathers the full force of our heart, to higher forms of loving, then we are in a state of meditation. To begin, bring to mind the bits of your life that elicit joy. Pick one and think on it. Allow the sensory experience of your mind to flood and then ebb away, leaving a sweet residue of retained happiness. This is at the very least better than feeling an evil and elusive club of meditators have perfectly ornate pictures of a godhead in their minds and hearts at all times, leaving your silly frazzled self standing outside on a doorstep, waiting. Separation hardens a heart and Love, in any form, softens a heart. Meditation draws a mind from states of darkness into the light, then into the well-prepared and softened, loving heart. In time, love for a cat, or catnaps, can merge and blend with infinite bliss. Let the people on the other side of the door (who are you), know that exclusive behavior is lame and step in with an open heart.
Love, Suki Ola