Recently I have been reading the “Sutra of Hui-neng” and if that sort of thing appeals to you I highly recommend it. It provides a wealth of perspective on a variety of topics. One of the things that struck me was a focus on meditation and how sitting meditation is just a particular form and branch of meditation. That, in order to embrace the meditative life, we need to sit, walk, stand, and lie down, all in mediation. It says that meditation is to be applied to all forms of being here, no matter what the posture.
There is so much allure and emphasis on sitting meditation, correct sitting meditation, and techniques about sitting meditation, and expectation about sitting meditation it feels like we have lost our way concerning the act and art form of a meditative life. We discuss meditation and in our minds we see that seated person contemplating their navel.
I spend some time acting as a guide for those that want to develop a meditative life. I relate to them that meditation can be “Experienced” within an artificial structure and that practice should not be the goal. Developing a meditative perspective for our entire life needs to be the focus. If I “Practice” to learn how to sit like a rock for two hours a day but it has no application to the rest of my life then I would have to ask the question to what end is this practice? Experiencing meditation in a controlled way is using the experience to develop an application. We practice (controlled experience) tennis to actual play tennis. It wouldn’t seem skillful to practice tennis to be good at practicing tennis. It’s unfortunate but I hear people talking about being “good” at sitting. Getting really good at practicing and experience is fine, but what is really meaningful is if we apply the experience in our lives.
The Purpose of Meditation
OH Oh. Now I’ve done it. Brought up the idea of purpose and reason for meditating. Some people say it’s to develop focus, some say it’s to develop equanimity, a sense of calm, a way to work with our reactive nature, and develop skillful means. I meditate to be able to stay aware of breath, that’s what brings my body and mind into the moment. And, I watch to stay aware of my Conditioned mind taking me into story and away from being here. Why? Because when I notice conditioning doing that, I can return to now. I have noticed that when I am here, in proximity of the moment, I act, speak, and respond in an entirely different way than when I am in that dreamland that Conditioned mind makes up. In proximity of now I am awake and not acting on impulse. That has become vitally important to me. Why? Because everything starts with focus on my breathing cycle and being here for what the universe is offering. It all starts with being here in a responsive mode instead of living in a dreamlike reaction modality. If I don’t start with that then what am I doing?
Impossible they say!
I had this conversation last Sunday with a person who is pretty convinced that it’s impossible to follow the breath all the time. Which seems odd because we are, on some levels, aware of every breath we take and, aware or not, we are breathing all the time. Being consciously aware of the breathing cycle is the practice of returning to the breathing cycle as a ground of being.
No, I am not suggesting that we move awareness of breathing in front of everything else. I am suggesting practicing coming back to the breath as a grounding device. The reason it seems so difficult, at first, is we take breathing for granted. If you think about all the random thoughts that occur in our daily lives then spending moments coming back to the breath doesn’t seem so overwhelming. For me there is something primal and calming being aware of the breathing cycle.
And no, there isn’t anyone who is always aware of their breathing cycle all the time. If trying to achieve some permanent state of awareness is your goal then get back to me when that happens. I’ll wait. There are no permanent states. There is only flux and transience. The key is to persevere and keep re-igniting the “AWARENESS OF STATE.” We drift and come back, drift and come back. We juggle to maintain the way a tightrope artist is always in the act of balancing. We don’t achieve a balance, we achieve the act of balancing.
The breathing cycle awareness is the process that connects the four types of meditation together. It’s not the content of each type but the process of the breathing cycle. Breath awareness brings us to what is happening right now, it doesn’t matter what design the body takes. Lots of us are challenged as to what type, when, and how often we can do a formal conditioned awareness. I think the emphasis needs to be on returning to the breathing cycle and starting to incorporate that into our lives no matter where we are or what we are doing. Attention to the breath is meditation. It doesn’t matter what you are doing or where you are, aware breathing brings you home.
When we are in proximity of now, we are able to access the noise that Conditioned mind creates and uses to flood our ability to respond to what is in front of us. When we are with the breath, all that thinking about future, past, opinion, ideas, judgement, and conclusion, diminish and a calm watchful state enters. The more we do this the easier it gets. And, we notice that we respond from a place that is skillful without having to wrestle to get there.
Awareness of the Experience or Thinking about?
If we are in the proximity of now you find that you are simply aware of the environment. Not thinking about the environment. Both of course are valuable ways of being in perspective. But one, that of pure acceptance, is rare. So much so that when it does happen we see it as extraordinary and special. What I am suggesting is that we develop both the ability to experience and think about experience. When we meditate we can experience the non-thinking, being experience, mind. As we develop our ability to experience just being we find a center of calm, peace, and a different way of observing our universe. We find ourselves willing to flow with what is instead of developing ideas that cause resistance and judgement.
There is not a “Right” way to experience life. We don’t need to try to develop singularities in perspective. What we need is develop all perspectives or what is called inclusive mind.
As always I am looking forward to hearing any thoughts ideas and comments from you.