Web Analytics

Retreats » Mindfulness Retreats

Heart of Meditation

heart of meditation

 

The Heart of Meditation

You Are Basically Good | Touch and Go | Mind the Gap | How to Meditate Flowchart

 


You Are Basically Good

Heart of Meditation
 
Basically What?
Years ago I was startled by a seemingly innocent and naive proposition: “I am basically good.” Well, at the time I didn’t feel basically good — in fact I felt rather bad, depressed, full of anxiety, not to mention angry, shy and apprehensive about the future. While I was neither harmonious with myself nor my friends and family, it somehow struck a chord, resonating some kind of truth that seemed more real than my personal problems. I longed to have a direct personal understanding of this theory of basic goodness.
 
The Joy of Letting Go
Enter meditation practice. The instruction I received was simplicity itself. Take a good posture, follow the breath, label thoughts ‘thinking’, and hold an attitude of naiveté and innocence; be like a child. As I struggled to hang on to my identity, I started to unravel. Everything I struggled with – my personal beliefs about good and bad, god and the devil, friends and enemies, success and failure – continually rose to the surface like bubbles. My belief in the validity of these endless thoughts started to dissolve into thin air. There was nothing mystical or religious about the experiences. In letting go of the fight, I started to feel joyful and good… basically good.
 
Microcosm and Macrocosm

I believe that personal experiences like these are the microcosmic basis for earth-shaking change in society. We all are faced with intractable and ever-growing problems such as environmental destruction, hunger, poverty and inequality. And as Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve problems with the same kind of thinking that created them.” Our present structures in government and business were built on, and continue, with a limited kind of thinking. They pattern themselves on a model that no longer functions: benefitting a few at the expense of many. For example, governments function for business and not the people, shareholders care for their interests and not the environment, banks focus on short-term financial profitability with no awareness of its affects on people and the environment. These disconnects are echoed in each of us. We humans have to go back and take a good look at the mind that created these problems. By reconnecting to ourselves wholly, positive change can occur everywhere. How is that?
 
Meditation in Action
Getting back to the bubble experiences; by going deeper into the depths of your own experience, something amazing happens. When you go deep, you hit water, and that is the water of compassion. It’s a mind that considers everybody and everything, not just your own special interests. It happens when you let go of the old ideas. Now we need new models of government, business, finance and education that must emerge right from this depth of experience, and not from the old patterns of the past. Leaders everywhere (and we can all be leaders) are beginning to look at different models of eco-oriented change, which is future oriented. Permaculture offers a whole-system view of working sustainably with the land, the people and animals who live there. Shambhala offers an excellent educational system for contacting basic goodness and creating a good human society. Theory U teaches a framework for transforming institutions and society. Mindfulness meditation is being taught in schools and Parliament.
 
Random Acts of Kindness
So what exactly is the link between the personal transformation that occurs in meditation and the transformation of society? Meditation is like acupuncture: by penetrating to the vital point of letting go into our own goodness, the whole system can change. We’ll need to practice it. When we let go, then we touch ourselves, and from that something comes to us. A new other-based vision can crystallise. Then we can prototype it through committing a random act of kindness. It’s an act that is spontaneous, swift, and considers the whole picture. From it you get feedback, which helps to expand your future-based vision. Working with repeating feedback loops is the basis for building new structures and from these the good society that we all want can emerge.
 
Society is Basically Good
Recently I have been quite startled by the statement “Society is basically good”. Honestly, it doesn’t feel that good to me sometimes. But then I remember the energy and joy that comes from recognising and letting go of old patterns and seeing what bubbles spring forth from the depths of the water. We have no choice but to rebuild society on this kind of recognition. It’s all basically good!

 


Touch and Go


 
Canned Peaches or Fresh Off the Tree?
There are two ways that we human beings can view or relate to our experience: we can eat it fresh or bottle it up. I spent a good part of my life doing the latter, canning being my main profession. Sooner or later you open the jar and what you find is stale, tasteless or down-right foul. I was bottling up those uncomfortable, embarrassing experiences which would have revealed to everybody that I’m not a calm, peaceful and spiritually enlightened being. Anger was my favorite preserve. I wasn’t touching my experiences, like my anger. I was afraid to look at certain experiences, embarrassed. At the same time, those embarrassing moments refused to let me go. They got louder and louder until I finally had to pay attention, to look at them, and respect them. Until that time the fruit of my meditation was often unhappiness and misery. It wasn’t Touch and Go meditation, it was just Go Go Go meditation.
 
Fresh Fruit at Kilometer 0
From my experience I recommend giving yourself a good time and eating it fresh. Not bottling things up is NOT labeling thoughts “thinking” so that you bypass yourself. It’s also not being afraid to look at who or what you are, however wonderful, horrible or revolting that might appear to be. It’s extracting the fresh nectar of your experience from the harvest of bringing everything you’ve got inside you to the meditation cushion/chair. When you’re present to uncomfortable emotions you transform them so that instead of causing you misery in the future they become the source of happiness and joy right now. This is very possible and you can do it. This raw food diet might even be a recipe for a long and healthy life.
 

 
Touch and Go Instructions
Now mindfulness journeys to the heart. The way to practice mindfulness meditation, beyond technique, is through the instruction on touch and go. You know that you are aware of your experience, and this is a sense of being, of being there, being present. Touch is FEELING your existence, presence, or individuality. Go is letting go, or not holding onto the experience. You can take an attitude of being awake, aware and tuned in, and then you can let go. Furthermore, with practice and getting used to this fresh way of being, you can practice touch and go with anger, lust, jealousy, or any intense, seemingly impossible state of mind. It’s not that you just label them “thinking,” and sign off, and return to the breath. They are demanding your attention! You can look at them, acknowledge them, and not shy away from experiences that are embarrassing or that make you uneasy. Give yourself permission to just be with them, feel them, touch and contact them. Then go. This approach to meditation, and to life, gives a lot more room to play, dance and celebrate because you’re not bottling things up.
 
A Word of Encouragement
You can do it! You CAN do it because in reality who you are and what you are goes way beyond any temporary outside or inside problems that you might experience. You are touching a way of being that is full of strength, compassion and wisdom, and you start to feel it. It is you. This reminds me of a laundry detergent commercial: “New ___ laundry detergent is stronger than dirt!” The goodness that we contact in ourselves, full of strength, compassion and wisdom cleans up and outshines our messy, dirty little problems. Knowing this, when the going gets tough, just tell yourself you can do it.
 
A Soft Touch
One of my teachers once said, “Erring and erring I walk along the unerring path”. To me it was a wonderful reminder of the need to be kind and gentle to myself. It’s a mantra I often repeat. You might make the mistake of pushing yourself too hard, or being too self-critical. Maybe you already know how useless this frame of mind is, yet you keep doing it. When you see that, remind yourself to lighten up, be kind to yourself. Just do it. You CAN do it.

 


Mind the Gap


 
We live in a world where we are overwhelmed with messages of protection and benevolence. They are not always about being careful, like not falling into that temporary gap between the train and the platform, but these everyday messages also contain secrets. If we pay attention, they can help us to discover a vast and loving world that is trying to titillate us awake and into something extraordinary – if we could only learn how to read them.
 
Take, for example, the common advice to “Mind the Gap.” The ‘gap’ is not only a dangerous, dark crevasse to avoid, but another type of invisible gap also exists – that which lies between our departure and destination. That ‘in-between’ zone is where we have left something familiar behind and not yet arrived at a safe place. It is not especially comfortable, and may leave you feeling out of control, as though the world is full of threatening or empty people. I propose, though, that we take a fresh look at how we respond to this temporary gap between where we’ve been and where we want to go. How do we mind it?
 
Gaps make up a huge proportion of our lives, but we usually choose to avoid them or anaesthetise ourselves from them, as if we are experiencing an ongoing medical emergency. We don’t want to feel. For pickpockets, the anaesthetised world is their oyster. For the rest of us, the gap is a rich world ready to plunder.
 
You might wonder, what on earth I’m talking about, and that’s fine. But if you’re intrigued, let’s explore some possible secret messages within the term “Mind the Gap.”
 
Message 1: “Don’t zone out, ignore or avoid the gap.”
The gap is a lively place, which should not be feared, but simply minded with your whole body and being. The opposite to zoning-out is to be awake, curious and present with your eyes and ears fully open. When we intentionally avoid things, we start replacing the living world with a pixelated facsimile devoid of colour and texture. We forget to see, hear and feel.
 
Message 2: Enjoy your existence.
When you are engaged by the gap, you are momentarily free of nagging thoughts and problems. You actually enjoy the space and recognise the play of the world. You might smile for no reason. Suddenly you’re off the entertainment grid.
 
Message 3: Enjoy the gaps of others.
Everybody could be enjoying their respective gaps all over the place. Then when two ‘gaps’ meet, it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship – even if it only lasts a few seconds. There is an immediate recognition of interconnection involved, which is in itself full of secret messages.
 
Message 4: The “gap” is a metaphor for our whole life.
We may find ourselves experiencing a gap between one relationship and another, which leaves us feeling uncertain and confused. There may be a gap between the seasons and you’re left unsure how to dress. Between going to sleep and waking we have dream gaps, which are shifting and unpredictable. And here’s another secret: If you begin to enjoy your day gaps, then nighttime dream gaps can be recognised and enjoyed as well.
 
Message 5: Dance your life.
Through remaining aware of the world about us, we can participate in the dance of all our sense perceptions as they happen, and engage with life in real-time. We are dancing with a shifting display, holding our awake curiosity here and there, then letting go as we are drawn into the next enticement, then letting go again. Your senses naturally engage by themselves because you are hard-wired to make connections. Tuned in and connected you can make a discovery that the world is neither for nor against you – it is actually there to support you.
 
When things in life fall apart, change or feel uncertain, we should remember to “Mind the Gap.” It will require a little bravery, but then we can be free to discover the magic that is present all the way along.

 


How to Meditate Flowchart

 
The flowchart provides a quick reference for working with six experiences you might have in meditation. It will be helpful to you to be able to recognize them and know how to be with them. To use the chart please start from the bottom and work your way up. Working with strong emotions is a special topic. Mindfulness Journeys will explore the special methods used to transform the powerful emotions. Look for our posts soon.
 
The Heart of Meditation Flowchart
 
1. You sit down to meditate and the events of the day are still running through your head like a strong current, and you are far from being able to follow the breath. When this kind of experience occurs, notice the speed and strong energy current of your mind. Witness it and know that it is happening without trying to follow the breath, labeling it or trying to make it stop. This is being honest with yourself and will help to slow you down.
 
2. You have been meditating and you find yourself lost for who knows how long in thoughts and fantasies, like building your new dream house or planning retirement. Maybe you were envisioning what it would be like to go to Mars. When finally you notice that you have been light years away, without any judgment on yourself, simply get back into the practice again. You might adjust your posture and remind yourself that you are here only to meditate. Return to the breath.
 
3. You have random thoughts about everything under the sun. “I wonder what’s for dinner. I could really go for a coffee, but maybe I should give up coffee. I wonder if he likes me. Am I really doing this meditation technique correctly? Is this really helping me? Maybe I should take up the accordion.” You will probably spend lots of time in the random thought zone. When you recognize that you are thinking simply return to the breath.
 
4. You’re following the breath, mindful, yet there is an undercurrent of thoughts bubbling up like bubbles in a stream. They are small and insignificant. When this happens, without getting caught up in them so that they steal your practice away, simply be aware that they are happening. You don’t need to label them.
 
5. Your meditation is steady without major interruption. You feel relaxed, calm and clear. When this happens just rest in this open, spacious and relaxed way of being.
 
6. You are utterly consumed by anger or rage and are sitting there with your blood boiling in intense turmoil and anguish. When this kind of intense emotion occurs then take a break, go for a walk, do something you like, look at the world around you. Come back later.

Heart of Meditation