Monday, July 15, 2013

Meditation and the Battle for your Mind and Soul

Have you ever had the great plan to go on a meditation retreat, a relaxing holiday or week of camping out in the wilds, only to find that when you get there you’ve unwittingly brought an unwelcome guest: your mind?
Yep, you’re lounging on a tropical island and, instead of taking in the sun, sand and transparent warm waters, all you can think about are all the things you need to do when you return home, the frustration your girlfriend or boyfriend has been causing you of late, get my point!
Of course, everyone’s ‘troubles’ are unique, but your mind always knows your ‘hot spots’. It knows which triggers to push to get you thinking, planning and worrying.
What’s more, it’s so hyper-vigilant and ‘on the lookout for you’ that even when you tell yourself that’s it’s fine to just forget about everything and relax, it keeps ‘working’ on your behalf.
Loss of Self, Crappy Results
As a result of the mind’s propensity for hyper-activity, most people – most of the time – live in a kind of ‘waking dream’. A ‘dream’ where their minds flow from one thought or image to the next without them being ‘consciously’ aware of what is going on.
They are simply ‘sucked’ along from one ‘dream’ to the next – as if caught up in a ferocious current from which it is impossible to escape.
There are two key issues with this state of being:
  1. It causes us to lose touch with our true (Higher) Self.
  2. It creates crappy results in our life.
How We Lose Ourselves
People often talk about the need to ‘stay in the moment’. The reasons for this are typically meant to be self-evident and in no need of further explanation, but if we get lucky we may be told that ‘being in the moment’ will lead to a life of greater intensity.
This, of course, is very true.
If our mind is dancing here, there and everywhere except where we are, then it will be hard to connect in any meaningful way to the world in front of us. How could we if our mind – and energy – is elsewhere?
A deeper point that no one seems to talk about, however, is that when we are caught up in the ‘waking daydream’, we disconnect from our true (Higher) Self.
The truth of this is evident to anyone who has spent time practising meditation: When you stay ‘aware’ of your thoughts, feelings, emotions etc., you feel connected not just to ‘chi’ (i.e. ki or ‘spiritual energy’), you also feel part of something grander than yourself (i.e your true Self).
This doesn’t mean that you necessarily have a transcendental experience where you become ‘one’ with the world (it typically doesn’t); but it does mean that you feel either connected to the world beyond your physical body or, at the very least, as if you have energetically expanded.
In this state, it is as if a chord is connecting you to your true (Higher) Self or, to put it in simpler terms: a bigger, grander, deeper part of yourself.
So getting sucked into the ‘waking dream’ really means losing touch with your true Self. Not – at least relatively speaking – a grand experience.
Crappy Awareness, Crappy Results
Thoughts are energy: energy that gets broadcast out into the universe.
If we agree that like attracts like, that things vibrating on the same energetic frequency will tend to attract one another, then what we think should be a matter of some concern.
Christ knew this when he said (Matthew 5:28) that ‘anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart’. In other words, you can commit ‘sin’ – even if you only think something and never act on the thought. This is because certain thoughts create an energetic vibration that cause harm to the thinker and, to a lesser extent, their target.
Admittedly, most people reading this article aren’t going to be spending a lot of their time thinking obviously ‘sinful’ thoughts; but even so, most people’s minds are a bit like a TV station that spends ninety-five-plus percent of its time playing mindless ads. They ‘unconsciously’ spend the vast majority of their time thinking the same irrelevant, unconstructive thoughts – and before they know it much of their life is wasted.
How to Free the Mind
Freeing the mind is not a simple thing, and I can’t claim to have totally succeeded, but understanding that the mind is set in motion by desires is a big help.
Because if we can discover the ‘end point’ of all our desires (i.e. our ‘ultimate desire’) then we might be able to jump straight there without intermediary steps and, in the process, avoid getting distracted by never-ending stream of thoughts our mind comes up with.
Of course, everyone will need to come to their own conclusion about what is the ‘ultimate desire’, but I’ll suggest that it is connecting as fully as possible to our true Self.
When we connect to our true Self we feel alive and whole – expansive. We feel connected to something bigger than us.
So perhaps all the things we chase after in life are simply our – often mistaken – effort to achieve this connection. We want to find ‘love’ because in the past it has helped us expand and feel more alive. We want to get rich because it will give us greater freedom to escape the limiting confines of our everyday life. We want to be healthy, because that helps us feel more vibrant and alive.
I’m not certain how far we can push this; but it does seem clear to me that all of the above-mentioned desires will, if everything works out well, lead to states that resemble (generally in an inferior form) those where we are connected to our true Self.
If this is true, however, then we probably should put more of our efforts into connecting to this true Self directly rather than chasing after things / experiences (like a loving relationship), that we hope will lead us to the same place.
In a way, this is in fact what the ‘spiritual path’ is about – it’s just that our mind typically doesn’t realize this. After all, if it did, it would spend a lot more of its time getting out of our way. This would allow us to simply enjoy the present moment uninterrupted – the present moment that the ‘portal’ to our true Self.
Fortunately, our situation isn’t irredeemable, for if we do grasp this point then each time our mind jumps in with a suggestion to follow one of its grand plans we can tell it to go bother us another day. We can politely inform it that we are too busy enjoying the ‘ultimate fruits’ of all the things it is trying to ‘sell’ us.
So next time you are meditating, or just wanting to stay anchored in the present moment, tell your mind that what you ultimately want is right within your grasp – if only you don’t go searching somewhere else.
Indeed, everything you hope to get / experience – at best – can only lead you right back to where you would be if you gave up the chase. 
(Copyright, Jeremy O'Carroll, 2013.)

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