Editor’s Note: May is National Masturbation Month, but it also seems to be Meditation Month at “The Growing Mind.” Neil Selden has posted a couple of times on meditation recently, I’ve put up two posts, and now our ‘guest contributor’ Michael O. Selden writes an in-depth article for those who really want to get into this topic. Don’t be deceived by the title.
Meditation is a stupid thing to do. It is mechanistic and unnatural. It would be far better for us simply TO dwell in this moment as it is… unaffected by our biological impulses, UNAFFECTED BY psychological tendencies CAUSED WHEN thoughts come unbidden into our minds and emotions arisE unnoticed. Far better to relate straightforwardly to the integrated interplay of our physical beings – the weight of our bodies… the feel of our skin… the smell of our surroundings… the tastes within our mouths… the colors and textures which dance before our eyes Far better to witness our ever-changing mental states – the subtle currents of joy and sadness which run within us and the quickness of our intellects to apprehend and analyze whatever we encounter. Far better for us to choose, with intention, skill and wisdom, our responses to events which transpire within our field of awareness, rather than reacting with habitual patterns of behavior quite unlikely to embody our highest aspirations of action. It would be far better for us to simply experience Reality directly… in this moment… bare and essential and wondrous in all its aspects.
It is simple to say these things… they are intuitively resonant… yet to accomplish this way of being in the world is the highest calling of humankind. Many people fleetingly glimpse this elusive state… during rare moments when circumstances converge just so and allow for the full experience of the present. When this occurs we feel transported… we realize that we have embodied something which defies our categorizations, something literally impossible to imagine accurately before it has been lived.
The universal human potential to freely dwell within this dimension of pure and undifferentiated being is very real. Yet seldom do we meet people whose lives are characterized by direct and panoramic awareness of the dynamic activity of Reality, who demonstrate the seamless lucidity and existential flexibility which is inherent to and accessible by all human beings. Why is that the case? It is because what we usually perceive to be Reality is in fact an afterimage, a delayed-reaction internal reconstitution of all that we apprehend sensorially; and it is one deeply colored by our subjective and subconscious interpretations.
The normal and healthy pattern of our development as a species is such that as we come into physical and psycho-emotional maturity we develop a set of experiential filters that condition the raw input we receive through our senses from the world around us. These Reality-conditioning filters, which in general comprise what psychologists might call the ego-I identity construct, are characterized by our unique life experiences and have developed over the entire course of our lives, from birth to the present moment. Our experience largely consists of involuntary intellectual, emotional, physical and behavioral reactions to what we perceive – through these filters – to be Reality. Quite literally, we create our own experience of being… in real-time.
How, then, do we become able to subvert the bondage of our conditioning? How do we become able to encounter Reality not as we perceive it to be, involuntarily filtered through the interpretations of our ego-I consciousness, but as it truly is? How do we become able to witness and appreciate the evolutionary gifts of the human bodymind without being made victim by its relentless functioning?
The simple answer is… with practice! We all have the potential to develop the skill of observing our internal experience-conditioning process as it occurs. We can learn to discern conditioned experience from Reality. We can practice seeing… being… what is right here and now! We can all Awaken to the basic truth of present Reality, whatever its form. In so doing we walk a path well-trodden by many others before us, throughout time and across civilizations.
Caution is warranted – the practice and experience of unconditioned Reality does not eliminate pain, either physical or psycho-emotional. It is common to approach walking on the path of the Awakened state of being assuming that our pain will diminish – it will not. In fact, we are forced to engage our many pain-points in ways we never have before. We do not “get” anything out of this work… especially painlessness. Rather, we must let go of all that we have come to cherish – and that hurts. As we release that to which we cleave, however, a unique perspective arises, which may be described as Tranquility. It is not rife with attachment or desire, nor is it so with detachment or aversion. It is profound, and uniquely marked by non-attachment.
With the arising of Tranquility, our need to control what we perceive to be Reality – but have come to accept as a projection of our own mind – is diminished. Our tendency to manipulate the world around us so as to bring about specific facets of experience becomes unbound. Hence, the pain we encounter does not cause us to suffer. This is important! Pain and suffering are not the same thing. Pain is simply pain. It, like pleasure or any other physical or psycho-emotional phenomenon, is transitory. Suffering is what we experience when present Reality conflicts with what we desire to be occurring in its stead. We encounter pain… we create suffering. When we lament the cessation of pleasure, we suffer even in the absence of pain. By learning to encounter life as it is, rather than as we perceive or wish it to be, we alleviate our suffering and the suffering of others.
The practice of Awakening to Reality, then, is the practice of letting go of our attachments and our aversions, our detachment and desires, thereby coming into harmonious engagement with whatever is, in any event, in any moment and in any place. This involves cultivating a field of awareness which allows us to observe as uniquely-conditioned versions of Reality are created. The perspective this yields allows us to then begin choosing how we experience the world and how we behave within it! Ultimately, we must completely penetrate the temporary and illusory figments of mind which we have thus far related to as our basic existential navigation reference point – as our “self”. When this occurs we come to know directly, in a manner not bound by thought, the unity of all that is. By uncovering the illusion of the perceived separate self we come to know the true nature of Reality. Thus does true Insight manifest.
Cultivation of the field of unconditioned experience, devoid of the projections of ego-identity, is the practice of dynamic and lucid meditative awareness… it is the practice of meditation. It does not require one to adhere to a fixed set of preconceived ideas. Instead, it involves free inquiry and direct existential investigation. It may therefore be approached from any religious or spiritual orientation whatsoever – including none at all.
Tranquility and Insight which arise from transformational experiences of the Awakened state of mind must be integrated into daily life – the indivisibility of the Awakened state of mind and mundane everyday existence manifests as “kitchen sink Awakening”. Every facet of life is an active expression of Awakening – the intellectual, the emotional, the psychological, the social, the physical, the vocational, the political, the creative, etc. All these aspects form the holistic pattern… the “mandala”… of Awakening. This integration process involves radical and focused engagement with mental structures, as ingrained and habitual, often neurotic psycho-emotional and behavior patterns are identified and intentionally encountered.
The mature expression of Awakening embraces all interactions, with sentient beings and with the so-called “inanimate” world. Spontaneous compassion – accompanied by the wisdom and skill to actualize it appropriately in diverse situations – arises; practice-realization manifests in every activity, moment and place.
So… meditation is a completely stupid thing to do… once we have given rise to panoramic and lucid meditative awareness which permeates our every mind-moment! Until then, meditation is the very practice of life itself… the practice of the full experiential realization of the primal essence of being… of that which permits no duality… that which is empty of individuation. It is the path towards practical accomplishment of a life which indivisibly fuses our perceived mundane existence, marked as it is with inherent impermanence and dissatisfactoriness, with the direct experience of unconditioned, divine Reality.
Or, to put all that drivel somewhat more rhythmically…
The source of thought
Is in an instant unveiled
Tears move at the unity
At embodiment set free
At surprising yet familiar active clarity
Beyond sense and mentality
Lies the dynamically
All of sentiency
A singular non-dual multiplicity
Wet laughter at the incongruity
Of separateness fleeting and temporary
Of the subtle pervasive beauty
Obscured by identity
Yet the experience of primal reality
Imparts no permanent equanimity
What arises is the tenuous ability
To be one in the moment with lucidity
To embody subject/object permeability Over time this Way penetrates deeply
We come to clearly see
The power and the subtlety
Of action and action’s legacy
We see the pain and the majesty
Throughout the existential tapestry
We engage our vexations more skillfully
And recognize each precious opportunity
To serve another sentient entity
As shocking as the discovery
Of personal divinity
Is the ensuing difficulty
Of awakening continuously
In every activity
Of consciously employing insight carefully
Amidst life’s illusionary
Of being… consummately
What an unexpected irony!
Or… better yet… more succinctly…
What’s the trick?
Just let go
Moment to moment