Archive for May, 2011
Having the Right Attitude for Effective Meditation

The art of meditation is something that should be handled with delicacy if we want the intentioned outcome to be a positive experience. Since our thoughts shape our reality in ways we all too often take for granted, the effectiveness of our meditation sessions largely depend on our state of mind. Whether or not meditation has the desired effects we seek largely depends on us. This is why it is important to pay attention to our attitudes towards meditation and how we meditate. There are some attitudes that are especially powerful in hindering the positive and beneficial effects of meditation that I will address here, since it seems that far too often we fall into these thought-patterns that result in us having a sub-par meditation experience with sub-par results. Inspired by Henepola Gunaratana’s Mindfulness in Plain English, here are some common attitudes towards meditation that should be avoided if we wish to experience a fully satisfying meditation experience.

Have no expectations for what you are about to experience

Be aware and just let it happen. Do not have an expectation that some particular result will come about from your meditation. Do not expect yourself to become a fully liberated yogi at the end of your session or have some profound realization or insight. Just let it happen, at its own pace and speed. There should be no force on your part towards the meditation, but rather, let the meditation guide you…let your unconscious, your inner being, your higher self, to take control of your consciousness. A meditative state is no place for our perceptions, predispositions, beliefs, or ideas about any aspect of Reality that exists. The only thing that those things will do for us is to act as stumbling blocks on our way towards pure no-mind awareness.

Do not force the experience

Do not feel that you need to force on the meditative state. Try not to worry if you are finding it difficult to get rid of the distracting thoughts that are buzzing through your mind. Meditative is not an aggressive experience…far from it. Be calm and relaxed during the meditation and remember, energy flows where attention goes.

Do not rush the experience

Meditating is not like other activities we partake in. It is one of those things where the quicker you try to get it done, the worse the outcome is, which is a far cry from what our attitude is towards accomplishing other things. Our brainwaves need to slow down from the hyper-alert beta state down to the relaxed alpha and even further down into the tranquil theta state. So do not try to rush it…take your time. Time, after all, is a non-existent concept in the meditative state. Get comfortable and shift your mind state to one where time does not exist. Anything truly productive takes longer than a few moments to flower into something beautiful.

Be unattached to what happens

Leave your feelings of attachment at the door, because there is no place for them in meditation. We have to be aware that if we cling onto something or reject something that arises during the meditation, we will have let our ego take over the experience. If a positive mental image arises, observe it mindfully. If a negative mental image comes up, observe it mindfully. It is perfectly alright if things are conjured up in the forefront of your mind that you did not expect and perhaps did not desire. We should never fight the experience, but rather be mindful and aware of it all.

Let go

Go with the flow. As the Beatles song Tomorrow Never Knows says, “turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream”.

Accept everything

Fully accept any and all feelings that you experience during your meditation. Yes, even the ones that you wish you did not have. Realize that we are all human beings and a side effect of that is that we are flawed and make mistakes in this incarnate reality. Do not put yourself down if something startling or frightening comes up. View all that comes into the scope of your awareness as being natural and understandable. Accept the experience and all that it shows you. Acceptance means choosing to see the absolute perfection and beauty in everything. Everything  and everyone is currently operating at its own level of awareness and/or evolution. Everyone and everything is what it is right now because that is what it needs to learn or un-learn.

Be easy on yourself

Be gentle and kind to yourself. As human beings, we always have something that we need to work and improve on. The process of becoming who we want to be first starts with an acceptance of who we are.

When looking at a problem, see a possibility

Look at problems not as problems but as challenges. Difficult experiences and situations in life can be excellent opportunities for growth and transcendence. Most importantly perhaps, do not run away from your problems because it is impossible to run away from them and growth simultaneously. Look at a problem as a personal growth opportunity.

Do not focus on differences

By having the right attitude for meditation, we can carry over lessons we learn within that experience out into our everyday lives. We need to have complete acceptance of the fact that differences exist between us all and always will. If we stay focused on what divides us instead of what unites us, the ego will inflate in such a way that our thoughts will change from being positive to being negative and our level of consciousness will drop lower and lower into increasingly-egoistic mind states. Envy, shame, guilt, pride, jealously, hatred, and greed lead to a negative emotional state and provide little fruit. It is difficult not to compare ourselves to others and focus on the differences between us, but we have to accept it as being part of the human experience and something to be worked on and transcended as much as we possibly can. We can get rid of this particularly-challenging problem by examining it through and through, replacing it with a more fruitful habit…noticing the similarities between us…those things which are universal to all life.

OMG, Harold Camping was right. Well, sorta.

It’s the second coming of somebody anyway.

No U in Love

Love is where you are not.

It would bomb as a pick up line, but it’s a concept of love worth pondering. They are the words of Jiddu Krishnamurti, a renowned spiritual teacher who traveled the world in the twentieth century extolling the merits of self-inquiry.

At first the statement comes across like one of those if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods Zen mindbenders, but spend a few moments with it and it may dissolve into a valuable insight.

Tug on the word ‘you’ and the statement begins to unravel. You, as in ego. Krishnamurti was saying that love can only exist when the ego is not around to muck things up.

Few of us would object to such a selfless concept of love. Similar observations by acknowledged subject matter experts like St. Paul and Kahlil Gibran lift our lips into hopeful smiles during wedding ceremonies. In those moments of stillness we contemplate the endlessness of human possibility, but only seconds later we are contemplating the endless flow of free beer at the reception. It’s as if such grand visions of love are too hot to hold, or perhaps too unattainable to sustain our attention.

And anyway, who are St. Paul or Kahlil Gibran to lecture anyone about love? The dudes weren’t even married.

For better or for worse, we view love as easily acquired treasure. This is because we define it as a feeling, rather than as the shared experience Krishnamurti hints at. We can’t wait to report the news of our surging feelings to friends after a third date with our latest admirer. And three dates later we want to throw open the window and broadcast our feelings to the world. Something inside us has been switched on, and it’s a marvelous feeling that’s hard to describe. Eventually we all find the same word for it – love.

But is a feeling that any randy seventh grader can experience really what the world needs more of? If this is love, it is not of the selfless variety. It is all about us, and hooray for that. But feelings come and go, even the rapturous ones, making this kind of love as easy to fall out of as it is to fall into. Is this ephemeral quality evidence of love’s sublime mystery? Or is love, the feeling, too flimsy a structure to stand on its own?

Divorced from feeling, love loses its conventional charm. When it’s not being rented out for wedding ceremonies, the concept of love as a shared state of being is considered the property of ascetics like Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Far from romantic, it is a state in which the ego loses its grip and one’s identity merges with those around them. It is love without a speck of self-gratification; in the absence of ego, there is no self seeking any reward.

Love exists, according to Krishnamurti, because we no longer do.

As inspiring as this selfless model of love might be, who needs it? The old model works just fine. That is, until it breaks down, which it does most of the time when you consider the hefty divorce rate and then guess at the number of burned out marriages. Add to this the legions of lovers meeting similar fates outside the borders of marriage and we have what might be termed an epidemic if it were a contagious disease. And yet somehow none of this dissuades us from hopping aboard the same rickety jalopy for another perilous ride.

A more abiding state of love awaits those disillusioned by one too many hapless joyrides. We need not shave our heads or abandon all earthly pleasures to enter this transcendent state, but we must discard the notion that love is a self-fulfilling venture. Love and ego cannot coexist. Like light and shadow, they cancel each other out. For love to appear, you must disappear. You must give yourself so completely that no trace of you remains. Love arises in the space created by your absence. Love is where you are not.

This article has been written by John Ptacek. Visit his website at www.johnptacek.com

Ringing Bell

I saw this and I couldn’t resist posting it.