Spiritual awakening can be a fast or slow process. For some, an extraordinary event, or tragedy, can trigger the start; in others, it takes an accumulation of years and experiences in life. It often begins with curiosity or a feeling that something isn’t right. The view of the world foisted upon us is false, there is more, so much more. We may become discontent in the early stages, a sense of being out-of-place.
One is drawn to certain books perhaps, or starts the search for truth in some other way. Many become attracted to various ‘New Age’ philosophies or learn about different belief systems. They search out esoteric literature trying to find the solution in words and symbols.
For me it all began at an early age. My mother became a spiritualist, a long story which I won’t go into here. I was brought up with knowledge of life beyond this earthly one, and evidence to back it up. For many years I quested further, reading book after book, immersing myself in ‘knowledge’ and, so I believed, wisdom and understanding. I read about the magical, mystical aspects of Christianity, hidden and lost teachings, the Celtic tradition, Egyptian and Jewish mysticism, and many others. I read about the power of the mind and its possibilities. Then something changed, a realisation that it is direct experience which counts, not knowledge.
What do I mean by ‘direct experience’? That which is gained through dedicated prayer or meditation. Let me make an analogy here with chocolate. Knowledge is the scientific understanding of its chemical composition; the reaction of the taste buds, what compounds induce those sensations, the source of the cocoa, the plant, its varieties and growing areas, the manufacturing process of a chocolate bar and so on. All of which pale into insignificance once one actually eats the chocolate, delighting in its smooth, sensual texture and exquisite taste. Once one has that experience, no amount of knowledge about its manufacture is needed. Knowledge without experience is purely academic and empty. Knowledge is interesting perhaps, but secondary to experience.
Knowledge of other realms and dimensions, the connectedness of everything that is, the creative spirit which pervades the entire universe is as nothing compared to actually experiencing it, and if experienced, then the knowledge is not required. Meditation was the road I took to search for intimate experience, the way used throughout the ages and through all clutures. Once again I searched, flitting from one method to another like a butterfly going from one flower to the next, never spending long enough in one ‘system’ to gain anything much of value. In time another realisation occurred through inspired understanding; the method is not important, nor, actually, is a method necessary.
A few years ago I came across the teachings of Eckart Tolle and searched in vain for a ‘method’ in his works. There was only one, very brief, description of meditation. Eventually I got it. The experience of ‘the Now’ is meditation itself, there is no method! To live in the now is to live in meditation.
Another resource I came across through an interest in Buddhism can be found through this link The basic method of meditation In its explanation of the various stages it gave me the clearest understanding of the basics of mediation which I have ever come across and once again pointed to the fact there is no method as such;
1. Sustained Attention on the present moment
2. Silent attention on the present moment
3. Full sustained attention on the beautiful breath
To take the first glimpse, for a few moments, of that ‘sustained attention on the present moment’, to surrender to the moment with no attachment of thought to past or future, is a revelation and reletively easy to achieve. Finally it all fell into place; the understanding of meditation as a practice towards spiritual enlightenment, the ‘power of now’ and that there is no method per se !
Many people ask ‘how do you meditate’, they want a method or system. Sure, there are techniques for relaxation, which is a prerequisite for any meditation. But after that one only needs a basic idea of what meditation is; the disassociation with random thoughts enabling the higher consciousness to realise itself and the universe. Many complain that they can’t stop their minds from thinking about things. We cannot stop our minds from thinking, from working, what we have to control is our tendency to latch onto thoughts; we must let them pass without attaching to them. Eckart Tolle gave a great analogy in a talk; you are the host at a large dinner party and your job is to greet the guests as they come in. The guests are your thoughts. You greet each guest then let them pass and move on to the next, you cannot afford to engage in conversation with each guest.
There are higher levels of meditation beyond the basics, for which some guidance is necessary, but everything can be achieved with the dedicated practice of the basic methods.
Theses are some of my thoughts on meditation based on experience and practice, your views are always welcome in the comments. Thanks for reading.