We have all gathered to hear a talk on the awakening of meditation. But before we begin talking about the awakening, let us first consider what we are awakening from.
Most of us live our life with very little sense of our own being. We simply react to stimuli. There are well-established patterns in which our behavior travels. We live almost as if we are sleep walking. We walk around all day in a dream. We rarely have any contact with the real world, the world without the screen of mind.
Even when we walk in nature, because we desperately want that connection to what is ‘real,’ we walk in a dream. We are constantly preoccupied with our thoughts. Occasionally something shakes us momentarily from our slumber; it may be the sound of a bird or the sight of a meadow. But even then, very quickly, the mind rushes in and compares it to some previous experience. Some memory intrudes and we are taken away to another time and place.
For most of us, it is often some tragedy that shakes us to our roots and brings us back out of our dreams, face to face with reality. Some unexpected event throws our life in turmoil and we are brought into the moment away from our itinerary of life. It is in these moments that there is a great opportunity to change our course, to reexamine our priorities, and begin an inquiry into the essential questions of life. But more often than not it is only a brief alteration in our life-program, and once the crisis passes, we are once again living our life in the world of dreams.
A more potent opportunity for transformation comes when one has lived life fully and has been successful in following one’s dream only to find in the end that one is as empty as when one began. There is more possibility for change here because one has already pursued dreams to the very end. All that energy that was being projected out, chasing rainbows, suddenly collapses onto itself, and a real conversion is possible.
Others have looked deeply into life and seen through the illusions that becoming brings. A keen intelligence can see through the fallacy of the promise of becoming. For them, even the ‘concept’ of living in the now has an appeal.
No matter how we arrive, by attending a talk on “the awakening of meditation” we show that we are hungering for an awakening. We know that the life we are living is not a life of bliss, is not a life of love and laughter, is not a life of celebration, is not the life of enlightenment that we have heard is possible. So, we are interested in hearing what the speaker has to say about awakening and about meditation.
The title of this talk has been deliberately chosen because there is ‘an awakening’ of meditation that takes place, and it is meditation that brings about that awakening.
In order for us to make the journey out of ‘becoming’ and into ‘being,’ we must first come to see how we are continually propping up the straw man of becoming. We must see how we are continually projecting our consciousness out into the idea of a person. We must see how we are reinforcing the identification with a separate, limited body-mind.
So, we begin by creating the witness. We begin by bringing our attention back home, and we find that when we are engaged in any mindful act we have less unconsciousness lying about. We are both stopping the emitting of energy into unconsciousness, and we are creating the witnessing, the awareness. We are beginning the journey home.
With this newfound presence, we are ready to begin the journey in.
This is a journey from the outer body to the inner body. What is the outer body? The outer body is the body that everyone sees. It is an image. It is fat or it is trim. It is tall or it is short. It may be male or it may be female. It is the you that everyone sees.
But there is a body that only you can know. It is the inner body. From the outer body you make contact with the outside world through your senses. You feel the floor beneath your feet. You feel the warmth or the coolness of the room. You hear the sounds around you. But with the inner body you just feel, you sense. It is a global sensing. It is not divided into the five senses. It is a total sensing. It is more subtle than your body sensing. We feel a sense of ourselves without any definition. It is being. It is beingness.
It is here in this interiority that we are able to move deeper into meditation, into witnessing. It is here at our center that we learn the knack of watching the traffic of our mind without either rejecting and pushing away or grabbing and rushing into. It is here that we simply watch the flow of the river of thinking. We are not controlling. We are more interested in the watching itself rather than the content of what is being watched. We are becoming familiar with the witnessing, with the watcher. The stronger the witness becomes the more we are at home, but this is not part of becoming. In fact, it is the opposite of becoming. We have simply stopped becoming; we have stopped the outward flow of consciousness and energy. Our attention is remaining at home, and the more the outward flow ceases, the more the at-homeness increases, the more we are aware of our Self.
When this witness crystallizes, then for the first time ‘we are,’ then for the first time the ‘master’ is at home. Then for the first time we know the “Awakening of Meditation.”
Buddha has said that there are only two mistakes one can make on the path. The first is not to begin the journey and the second is not to complete it. So, we must begin from wherever we are, and we should not stop until the awakening.
We are all part of a global sangha, a global community of those who are moving on the journey. And we can within this global sangha support each other, we can prod each other, we can challenge each other until each of us comes to our own awakening.
There are many pitfalls along the way, and to guard against falling victim, we can share in the wisdom of those who have gone before. And the biggest pitfall that we are warned against is the ‘illusion’ of awakening. The mind is very capable of appropriating the language of awakening and deceiving us into thinking that we have attained. It is very possible to come to an intellectual understanding, and in fact it is helpful to come to this understanding, but it is possible to come to this understanding and think, “Aha, I have attained.”
The real awakening, we have been told, is found in silence. It is not in language; it is not in words. If we need the use of language for our own experience of awakening then we can know well it is intellectual. When we arrive at the moment when we are able to ‘be, just be’ in silence without the traffic of the mind, without having to describe to ourselves our situation, then it is no longer intellectual. It is ‘being understanding.’
There are many techniques designed to aid us in moving into our interiority, and these can be helpful in bringing us to the place where witnessing begins. These techniques have been created in order to help remove the obstacles to our own meditation. They are not teaching us meditation but helping to make meditation possible. They help to create the space in which our own natural meditativeness blossoms.
Once the witness is awakened then it is only awareness that will carry us on. Then ‘just sitting doing nothing the spring comes by itself’ is appropriate but not before. First, we must clear away that which is preventing us from ‘just sitting, doing nothing.’
The greatest meditation and the core of all meditation is watching. It is the witness, just watching all that presents itself without being drawn into a fight for or against. Without our involvement, eventually, the mind loses steam. It is our involvement that powers it on. By just watching the mind, slowly, slowly it begins to break apart and the blue sky appears. By and by, the gaps appear, and we are left in our pure awareness. This is the “Awakening of Meditation.”
This is from the collection of stories, essays, poems and insights that is compiled to form the book From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva. Download a PDF or order the book Here.