The Path to No Path

Meditation

To understand what I mean by 'meditation’, please forget the dictionary definition, forget the word’s etymology, and forget the usage of this word in the Christian traditions. If you are not familiar with these definitions and usages, please do not bother to look them up, as doing so will only serve to confuse you.

I use the word 'meditation’ for two reasons – first, because it is used so widely in approximately the sense(s) in which I use it, and also because the English language has no other word that comes any closer to (or should I say, less distant from) the idea which I would like to convey.

There is also widespread confusion between the practice of meditation, and what it means to be in meditation. I have heard that the pre-Hindu sage Patanjali describes some 112 meditation techniques. If you include techniques from other traditions, you can probably double this number.

Also note that the practice of concentrating the mind is often described as meditation, and yet others (myself and Krishnamurti, for two) would dispute this.

Perhaps, before I get involved in a discussion of how to meditate and of what meditation is, it might be a good idea to write a little about what I see the benefits of meditation as being.

In the section on therapy, I claimed that therapy is about exploring the mind and clearing out junk. Therapy focuses mostly on the content of the mind, in other words it addresses questions such as: “What am I thinking about? How do I feel? What do I want? What am I avoiding? How can I change? What is holding me back?”

On the other hand, meditation, at least in its early stages, focuses on questions such as: “Who am I? What is the mind? How does the mind function? How can I relax? How do I find peace?” – or even, “What is the ultimate nature of reality?”

Both therapy and meditation help with the process of clearing out junk. The more obvious, larger chunks of junk, the ones that seemingly cause the greatest problems, the issues which seem urgently in need of attention – all these are probably best dealt with in therapy. This is because the presence of too much such junk makes it very difficult for the mind to settle down.

Meditation can only start when the mind is capable of allowing itself to be reasonably quiet. When I first learned how to meditate, after doing a lot of therapy first, what struck me was how active the mind was. It seemed to swing being manic and hallucinating.

There’s an image in one of Douglas Adams’ books either in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or in one of its sequels, where a whale suddenly appears in space and turns itself into a bowl of petunias. When I sat to meditate, I would have images like this flashing through the mind.

One day, I spent a few minutes looking through a book on how to sketch old buildings. That evening, during the meditation session, the mind seemed to be a manic slide projector, showing drawing after drawing of charming old rural buildings, each one different.

In my early meditation practice, when the mind had calmed down and stopped all these fantasies, the next phenomenon to appear was various forms of energy. I would often feel bathed in a warm bright glow coming down from above, and the body would feel very energised.

Then this phase passed, and the mind started to sink down into deeper levels and set off on a quest for peace, a quest that was to a great extent successful. Some would say that this is when meditation actually begins, when the mind starts to settle quietly of its own accord.

It was in this phase that I really began to see the inner workings of the mind. The mind became more calm than it had ever been before, and I came across ever deeper levels of peace. But I may write more on this elsewhere...

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If you should wish to contact me about anything you have read here, especially if you feel strongly for or against what you have read, or if you feel that something is missing, I offer you an opportunity to share.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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