"In a way, it is simply a practice of showing up. Can you be present and alert for the entire period of meditation?"

I hate to appear fanatic, but I really believe meditation can be a gateway to all our dreams come true: to complete freedom from conflict, to all the virtues we can imagine. I think there's nothing impossible given enough meditation, including all sorts of miraculous powers, as well as union with All There Is. In my own limited experience I consider it a clear path to the infinite -- and the irony is, this gate is ever before us, yet almost none of us venture in. We can talk all day and night about guides, angels, ET groups, and Masters X, Y and Z, but it remains but childish awe if we don't support it with a practice-path for our own transformation. Many good students and devotees consider their Guru or ET contact to be a perfect being, yet they balk at the idea that the Highest Master is within. It's easy to admire others, but far harder to take your own transmutation well in hand. As RA once said, very few souls are willing to "progress through all the distortion leavings" (the painful, shattered cherished illusions) on the true initiate-path. I too don't throw myself into my practice 100% (which would probably mean no "indulgent-time" and many hours in meditation a day), so I'm not really pointing any fingers.

On my travels I've heard many people complaining about Earth, about feeling stuck and oppressed, about the miserable state of human society (a sentiment I often echo, to be sure!). Yet, my patience wears thin when I remember that powerful tools to our freedom are always at hand, always at our disposal. If we spent half the time meditating that we now spend feeling bad about ourselves or complaining about the world, we'd already be clear and easy. As the Chinese Buddhist teacher Lin-chi remarked:

"The true student of the Way does not look to the faults of the world; he eagerly desires to seek true insight. If he attains true insight in its perfect clarity, then, indeed, that is all." 

(The Recorded Sayings of Ch'an Master Lin-Chi,
p.14; italic added)

So simple it seems simplistic, the meditation I practice is at the core of Buddhist tradition, and begins with the training of concentration. In metaphysical terms, I consider it a pure exercise of will since "the only thing which moves" is naked awareness, which is none other than the true Self who wields it. It is also a practice of personality detachment: remaining focused steady upon a single object (in this case, the breath), learning stability of concentration, then letting go of all else.

Of course, here is where the real challenge comes in: the "all else" that needs to be dropped is basically 99% of ordinary mind-experience, including all the apparently real sensations, feelings, thoughts, memories and moods we normally get hung up on. In meditation, if the mosquito bites, so be it; if memories of past thrills arise, just let them; if ideas of projects left undone come into mind, take care of them later. When we hold to the anchor-point of concentration long enough, believe it or not, eventually the monkey mind will stop jumping around. In the words of an ancient Buddhist text: the mind learns to incline towards Nirvana, or spaciousness, freedom, non-attachment and non-grasping. But this new habit can only be developed through consistent practice. Not surprisingly, it usually takes years for the monkey-mind to appreciate its own demise.

In terms of the technique of this breath practice, the meditator holds awareness steady at the nosetip, remaining aware of the air passing into and out of the nose. In a way, it is a true practice of simply showing up: being present and alert for the entire period of meditation. It's analogous to those Wanderers who serve the planet by their very presence: beaming love and light as beacons planted in the body of Earth. And like Wanderers and everyone else who cares about helping the world, the practice is not particularly glamorous. In fact, it can truly be called anti-glamorous, since this form of meditation severs pride, egotism, and all forms of controlling intent. It is definitely not a feel-good practice, although in the end, you will feel quite good indeed.

In my experience, meditation practice has brought gravity, clarity, and a degree of immovability to "my" character. Very little now shocks me (although a man with advanced gangrene on the filthy streets of Hangzhou, China did turn my stomach), and not too much now takes me by surprise. Not that I'm all-knowing, perfectly balanced, or replete with virtue, but rather, my perspective on self, others, and life itself has grown tremendously since the beginning of meditation practice. I can appreciate a greater sense of spaciousness with less knee-jerk reflexes, I can rest in a more clear sense of center, ballast and balance, and intuit the nature of the path ahead much better. In my seminars I often paraphrase one of the Buddha's more important sayings:

"Karma [i.e. conditioned, fixed patterns of response] for an  ordinary person is like a teaspoon of salt in a cup of water, while karma for the enlightened is like a teaspoon of salt in the ocean..."

In this analogy, the measure of salt (representing our baggage from the past) is just the same for both the ordinary and the enlightened, but the container of mind that each experiences is far different. Karma dissolves without a trace in the far vaster consciousness of an enlightened soul; the influence of ancient patterns and obstructions is simply no longer felt. Of course, we ourselves are the master who determines the breadth of our awareness, and thus the strength of our karma...

To be fair, Buddhist concentration is not the only kind of meditation, and many New Age teachers today offer various techniques of visualization. RA also made this distinction in discussing two forms of practice:

1) "Passive meditation, involving the clearing of the mind, the emptying of the mental jumble which is characteristic of mind complex activity among your peoples, ... efficacious for those whose goal is to achieve an inner silence as a base from which to listen to the Creator"... and:

2) "The type of meditation which may be called visualization... [is] the tool of the adept [which allows] polarizing  in consciousness without doing external action, [and]  has as its goal the conscious raising of the planetary vibration."

  (vol. II, p.126-7; italics added)

Although different, both forms share a common goal: the focusing of attention, which RA calls "the one technique for this growing or nurturing of will and faith" (vol.II, p.98). With a firm will and some degree of faith in the process, we can access our true nature, the center of our being from which all blessings proceed. For those who practice meditation in balance, these nice ideas are not merely wishful thinking at all: they're the inevitable results of effort and perseverance.

As with all metaphysics, the line is drawn by personal experience: you cant know sweet unless you taste the sugar. The intellectual formulation of higher truths counts for little with no practice. Reading lots of books may fill the mind with neat ideas and reveal a vision of freedom to strive for, but if the ideas are not applied in daily life they'll only increase "the mental jumble". The path of spiritual growth is a process of increasing simplicity, returning to essentials, and resting in the real. As it is done, we clear the mind-ground of emotional conflict and mental distress, so greater love, wisdom and will can shine in a more spacious mind-sky. Eventually, we find pure awareness without a solid bounded self -- in other words, Oneness. With time and continuing balance, the royal road of meditation will always yield a harvest of rich spiritual bounty.

Source: Universal Vision: Soul Evolution and the Cosmic Plan © 2000

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