I’ve currently been in a meditation setting for the last month. This ashram, or center is that of Ramana Maharshi, known as the silent sage. For over 50 years, he simply sat in mostly silence around a holy hill. He didn’t try to attract followers, nor did he preach. He simply answered questions, with the answers being remarkably without judgement.Those interested in his teachings can read and download Self Enquiry by Ramana Maharshi.
In this center, there’s little schedule except meal times and noon break. No one forces you to sit. No one keeps track or what you did or gives you suspicious looks if they haven’t seen you meditating. No one keeps track of your posture. Most people slouch or lean comfortable against a wall. The library has a large collection spiritual books from all major religions and teachers, but also has plenty of novels, including detective stories and science fiction. All that the managers of the ashram do is try to restrict those who come here to those who are serious and non-disruptive. After that, they leave it to you. After all, only you know your own Self.
Quite a difference from the 10 day meditational “prison” retreat of Goenka! Some day I’ll write about that one.
So for a month, I meditated only when I wanted to. In that month, there of course was letting go. Letting go of why I should meditate. Letting go of how to meditate. Letting go of trying too hard. Of even thinking I know what meditation is.
It’s easy to say things like “let go” or “forgive”, but to be honest, if we knew how to do it, we would. In fact, the idea of “how” is based in the conscious, rational left brain. And that is not what meditation is.
The following is more a reminder for myself, in hopes that I will remember in my body and spirit this experience when I’m back in the chaotic western world which can get my adrenaline up so easily.
Meditation is not forced sitting – in fact that is the antithesis of meditation. If you are forcing yourself to do anything, there is the part of you that is pushing, and a part of you that is resisting or being pushed; an inherent conflict and violence. True meditation is without violence. It is just sitting. There is nothing but sitting, and everything contained in it. The body sensations, the breathing, the thoughts, the emotions. But in deep meditation there is nothing “other”. There is just that.
Because meditation is non-violent at all levels, it is fundamentally new. Meditation is acting with each breath in a new, different manner, disconnected from habit.
Normally, we don’t act, we react. We re-act. We repeat acts of the past. We act habitually, in the same way we have done before.
Thoughts are by their very nature chained to the past. On a biological level, they are formed by association with other thoughts or through the “likes” and “dislikes” of the emotional brain’s (or limbic system) past. They are built from all the labels built up over a lifetime. But they are not direct experiences, nor are they the “flash” of insight that comes from moments of true relaxation or seeing clearly.
This is why it’s almost impossible to make great progress from a book. The teacher may be wonderful, but words by themselves are just thoughts. They may remind us of great inner truths, but they remind us through thoughts, through our past. What is needed is a gentle shock, a break from the past. A slight hop out of any ruts in the pathways of brain connections, where in this moment there is something new. “Truth is a pathless land”, said JK Krishnamurti. When you follow something – a person, an idea, an identity – you are not in truth. You cannot be honest with yourself, because to be truly honest you need to put that at the highest priority, which takes a firm knowledge (not a belief) in your own perceptions, your own seeing.
Meditation instructions are great, but should be experienced and forgotten, or else they chain you to thoughts. I know if I’m thinking of how to meditate, I’m not meditating. Sometimes when I’m sitting meditating, there’s all these wonderful wise thoughts about the nature of reality, Self, and meditation, but while I’m chasing those and feeling good about myself, I’m not meditating.
Meditation has no goal. The irony is that when you meditate for healing or enlightenment, you aren’t meditating. You’re trying to invest for the future, which of course isn’t now.
The more I learn (or unlearn) about meditation, the more I experience that it’s not in contrast with extreme states like pain, angst, rage, or terror. It is simply inviting a state of newness to all of them, a spaciousness that gives more possibilities than the normal reactions. Meditation isn’t constrained to sitting; it just means acting, not reacting. In wholeness. Without violence of any kind.