After many years of following instructions and methods regarding meditation and meditation practice, I have finally discovered the simple reality.
Not as easy as it sounds, actually. Especially when at the outset the racing mind has every other intention BUT to do nothing. The path of the meditator is a long one and in these days of the quick fix and minimal attention spans exacerbated by flickering media vying for validation, it is all too easy to set aside sitting on a cushion for protracted periods of time.
The benefits of meditation have been clearly established through numerous randomised control trials that have listed outcomes from lowered heart rates and blood pressure to increased concentration spans and mental clarity. There are some who venture on the path in order to become “enlightened,” however, as we shall see later on, this intent is in itself a trap for the mind created by the mind to entertain itself.
A veritable smorgasbord of meditation styles exist. In the 1960s The Beatles were the vehicle on which Maharishi jumped to promote Transcendental Mediation (TM). The popularity of Yoga and its spread added further fuel, although in the West it is seen more as a system of physical exercise to develop strength and flexibility rather than for its original intent. Buddhism became a popular alternative to staid conservative religions and now has a growing influence globally through the secularised offshoot of Mindfulness. It is cool to be Zen.
So then, what works? More importantly, how do we know that what we are doing “works,” especially when we are doing “nothing”?
Truth is everything works. Kindasorta. Mumbling mantras, prayerful visualised absorptions, bendy asanas, mudras, cold showers, imbibing sacred green teas and munching on weeds. Yes, it all works in the sense that it gives the mind material to play with. There are benefits in all the above (and besides), with the practitioner getting a sense that their spiritual practices are making them better and more godly – all good, if that is so. But…. mind play is mind play – and that is all there is to it.
Alternatively, when the mind is given an object to concentrate on, and then is repeatedly brought back to this object, it will, after some time, become quiet. A quiet, still mind is the diamond find.
The object of concentration is the sensation of the breath. The focus is on the part of the body at which the breath enters and exits the body. Non-judgemental observation of the breath whilst maintaining a peripheral awareness is the key.
Over time, the focus on breath can be dropped and attention can dwell in full expansive clarity. This is the state of being in which nothing is done.