Meditation is one of the most popular practices in the world. It extends across the boundaries of beliefs, religions, and dogmas and it is practiced by billions of people, Buddhist, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and even by Atheists.
It is also one of the few spiritual practices that have been scrutinized and validated by the scientific community.
The numerous positive benefits of meditation are widely known and documented but we are not going to elaborate on that aspect here, or maybe we will, but another time.
What I really want to talk about is the practical aspect of meditation and in particular some of the more problematic and misunderstood aspects.
People starting the Buddhist practice usually come from other backgrounds, Christian, Jewish come to mind, and they are usually either disappointed by the unsatisfactory answers their former religion give. Like “What was God doing during the Holocaust?”
Or does a guy that rapes and murders a child goes to heaven if he accepts Jesus as his savior?
Or they are looking for a practical solution to their worldly problems like people suffering from drug addiction, anxiety, depression etc.
Unlike the religions that offer you heaven but only after you are dead Buddhism offers peace of mind and ease of human suffering right here and now.
Because their religious background students starting the practice of Buddhism put a lot of emphasis on the dogmatic side and less on the pragmatic side which is totally wrong.
To truly understand Buddhism a student should start by understanding what Buddhism is and who Budda was. It should be a mandatory requirement that all Buddhist students should read “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse before studying any of the holy books and sutras.
There are some major points not mentioned in the holy texts and that the teachers, Gurus will not mention to the students like the fact that After studying for thirty years with the best teachers India had all that Buddha got was disappointment and disillusionment and that only after meditating for forty days and nights under the bodhi tree Gautama awaken and attained enlightenment.
Buddhism is something that you do like cooking.
You may study as many cookbooks you want you are not going to become a chef unless you get in the kitchen.
Yet the Gurus insist on pushing the students on the scholastic path to enlightenment which takes you to nowhere.
I have met people that have studied Buddhism for 10 -20 -30 years and when I asked them how long till the end of the path they gave me the BS answer that is not the destination but the journey.
That is Ego talk defending the Egotrip, not the eternal soul seeking liberation from the material world. But will leave that discussion for another blog.
So probably you are wondering how much scholastic knowledge does one needs to attain enlightenment.
The answer is zero, zilch, nada.
The scriptures are like maps and very confusing because nobody seems to agree on the topology of the human spirit and how to navigate it.
Even without a map if you keep wandering around you may accidentally find enlightenment, even if that wasn’t your intention at all.
Pick up this book at your local library “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.
This is the real account of a spontaneous enlightenment. The guy is real and the even is real, you have to trust me on that.
But be careful although the event was 100% genuine the way he translates his experience has some major flaws. Once again will maybe talk about that another time.
Back to meditation.
Short of having a spontaneous enlightenment or a near-death experience the only tried and trusted path to enlightenment is MEDITATION.
So let’s start talking what meditation is.
To me is the process of awakening.
I hate labels because people confuse the labels with the reality and getting attached to words makes us miss the meanings.
The process of awakening is a journey from point A the material, dualistic Ego reality and prison of reason to point B the non-dualistic ideal plan of the spirit and free unbounded, infinite existence.
I will not bore you with my 35 years of trial and errors so let’s go directly to the good stuff.
STEP 1 – Shutting down the rational – reasoning Ego mind.
We are all familiar with the disease plaguing humanity of constant mental chatter AKA rumination. This constant incessant brain activity is the reason for many human mental conditions and just by learning this first step anybody will be greatly rewarded.
The principle behind shutting down the reasoning mind is the fact that the brain can only process one task at the time.
Multitasking is a misnomer we do not multitask we just switch between tasks really fast giving us the illusion that we are actually doing two or many tasks at the same time.
If you don’t, believe me, there is a very easy way to blow away that misconception
Next time you feel like you are multitasking start counting backward from 5000 to 1
That will stop your multitasking dead in its tracks.
So how do you stop your mind from reasoning?
Very simple you find something to keep your mind preoccupated like watching the clouds drifting in the sky, the flow of a small creek or the flickering flame of a candle. All those things and much more like that are very good mental relaxation techniques and like I said very beneficial in destressing, alleviating anxieties etc etc.
For our practice, however, I found out the most effective method way of quieting the mind is OM chanting.
You can find OM Buddhist chanting on youtube and can download it on your computer and from there put it on an MP3 player or a smartphone.
Before going to sleep play the OM chant. Join in the chant.
Note: You don’t have to hit the perfect note or keep up a certain length just find a comfortable tone of your voice that will harmonize with the voices of the monks.
I recommend you practice only this step until it feels natural to you. Don’t worry if you fall asleep and don’t try to force to stay awake.
Remember the only purpose of this practice is to quiet the mind nothing less nothing more. I am emphasizing this because the meditation is a naturally progressive chain and if you don’t master the first step the following steps will fail. Also once you master the first step the second step will fall in naturally.
STEP 2 – Contemplation.
Although we have stopped the mind chatter chanting OM is actually still a brain process so if we keep chanting we are stuck at that level forever so while the OM chant is still playing you drift out from the active chanting, this should happen naturally and when its happening you just let it be.
You switch your focus to a contemplative mode you are there as a witness with no other agenda other than letting it be.
Things will start happening, actually, the things are always happening but this time you will become aware of your subconscious mind activity.
In the beginning, your Reason mind will try to pop out of its inactive mod and try to grab, dissect and judge what’s going on.
No need to panic just go back to the OM chanting and calm her down.
You should keep your practice at level two until you are not experiencing any of those pop-ups.
Like I said once mastered the level you will naturally be attracted to the next level.
STEP -3 Detachment.
Like I said do not get attached to the labels you need to understand the principle behind the label, II just call it detachment because that is what resonates in my mind.
So when you are in step 2 CONTEMPLATION you are witnessing your reality as you are watching a movie.
You have to understand that at this point there are two entities involved The Observer and the Observed.
Step 3 DETACHMENT is a step in which that difference is erased.
You should naturally move in a mind experience where there is no observer and observed or that you are both.
This will translate into a detachment from your corporeal existence.
Some people in the new age spirituality will call it out of body experience, third eye opening etc etc. IT DOESN”T MATTER. The words mean nothing. The only important thing is that you understand what was going on. At this point, your consciousness is expanding beyond the limits of your physical existence.
Note: The first step is always the shortest, The second will be longer but not extreme, The third step is usually the longest. You are exploring the vast regions of consciousness and that is a lot of exploring to do. So be patient enjoy the experience and as always don’t force anything.
STEP 4 -Transcendence.
Although in step 3 you have escaped the limits of self you are literally still in the dualistic reality you are still not free of the concept of self.
Step four is where you are going to die, The construct of self has to vanish before you can become one.
You know that joke about the Buddhist monk asking the hot dog vendor “make me one with everything”? This is it. This is the place where the AWAKENING and subsequently the Enlightenment happens.
How do you do it?
I don’t know I haven’t passed that threshold yet but when I'll do it I’ll let you know.
Good luck with your practice.
Be patient an persistent. You should do your meditation religiously every night before bedtime.
You may practice it anytime as many times you want but pushing it will not work or make it faster it will be exactly the opposite making it longer So you practice once in the evening every day without exception or excuses and whenever you feel its right and natural.
Good luck and if you reach enlightenment first I’ll be your first student!