A Record of Journeys
Articles and FREE Exercises Below
There is a painting by William Blake of the poet’s Virgil, Dante and Statius on the mountain of purgatory. It is night and Dante and Statius are tired and they are sleeping but Virgil is still up and is ‘keeping watch’.
There is something in this painting that points to the essence of meditation. Virgil could be sleeping, as we could all be sleeping, but he has decided to ‘stay awake’. He’s doing this for himself but also for others. His motivation is to serve. To serve all those that are seeking to ascend the mountain of spiritual practice. He knows that if one person stays awake then it will help the larger drama. He’s keeping watch in case any harm may come to the ones that are ‘tired’ and sometimes still ‘sleep’.
The fluid awareness that we come to us in meditation is very much like this. You could even call it a ‘social act’ and if it’s done in this way the awareness will just grow and grow. There is of course a somewhat internal focus in meditation sometimes but the flower does not grow into herself, her petals expand out into the light.
The word itself meditation can conjure up all sort of images for people and sometimes I’m not sure it’s the best word for what meditation really is! Words like ‘watchfulness’ or ‘trance’ or ‘absorption’ seem to get closer to it. There is a danger that people approach meditation as a kind of internal shutting down or dissociation from the world. It’s a wise saying that ‘if your life is not your meditation then your meditation is not your meditation’.
There is a way of course that an internal shutting down and a dissociation from the world could be a sublime and healthy act! Going to the deep wells of energy and healing that lie behind and below the veil of this world. But it all depends on intention, motivation and what’s we’re bringing to it ourselves. The motivation always has to be ‘I want to wake up through this’ if the motivation is ‘I want to close down and fall mentally asleep through this’ then meditation will not work that well. It could become isolating and psychologically counterproductive. Everyone knows that it’s not easy to stay awake in this world but the choice is always there for us to take. Do we want to be asleep or do we want to be awake?
You could also see meditation as a kind of ‘quickening of the spirit’. It should help us feel more real, grounded and energised into the feeling and presence of who we really are. We could all it a process of transformation but only as an act of alchemy that reveals the gold that was already hidden there below.
There can be a huge amount of resistance caught up into the ore that hides the gold. A lot of pain, complaints and resistance. One of the first things we need to do then as we begin to practice meditation is to ‘accept the present moment’.
Accepting the present moment though does not mean that we just accept things as they are and become passive, it’s more a willingness to accept the platform on which we sit and to work from there. It’s a great “Ok I’m here, I accept it, I’m happy with it, I will work from here”. It’s ok to practice present moment presence and acceptance as if it’s the ultimate but it’s a bit like the analogy of the muddy water. When you let it settle, the water does becomes clear but the mud is still there settled at the bottom of the glass. So we need to remain clear that we are in the process of inner alchemy and the work is not yet over. There are always ways that we can grow and develop.
It’s a bit like a man in a city where everyone is crazy, he walks around muttering to himself “I don’t want to be here, is this life? All these people and places have lost the plot! I’m not happy about being here at all!” So he wraps himself in a coil of resistance but then there comes a time when he realises “Yes it is like this but I’m here whether I think like this or not, so is it not better to accept it and do what I can to improve the situation?” After a while he notices that everyone is else is also caught in the same coil of resistance and eventually he begins, mostly simply through his presence, to help other to uncoil and wake up as well.
There is so much energy caught up into all of that resistance. So much of the painful inner mental dialogue that we go through is one of ‘resistance’. If we begin to accept then that voice loses a lot of its momentum and things start to become a little more friendly and lighter inside that place we call our minds.
So what we want is fluid, poetic awareness that connects us with the whole stream of our being. To make the unconscious conscious. We want the kind of awareness that helps us to remember what we felt like when the wind touched our face when we were six years old. The kind of awareness that helps us to reconnect with the stream of our being. This is the real way into non-duality and the timeless present. Author Tom