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How to Practice Meditation Effectively

It just occurred to me, while meditating just now, that the goal of meditation is not to get rid of your thoughts, but rather to become the observer of them. It’s like watching a play instead of being an actor. Or watching a football game instead of participating.

It’s as simple as that! I heard Deepak Chopra say,

“The ability to observe your emotions without manipulating them.”

That’s it! Just add “thoughts” to “emotions.” Thoughts and emotions are so very intertwined. These are the main activities of the thinking mind. They seem to give rise to one another. Especially if the thought is something that’s very personal or very close to your life. Or something that you’ve been in denial about that suddenly comes exploding to the surface! Then a flood of emotions can come. They seem so intertwined that sometimes that you can’t tell one from the other!

But as you practice observing your thoughts/emotions, stepping back from them, you’ll notice the first and primary benefit from meditation: Calmness.

Before your emotions had you pinned down like in a wrestling match.

But meditation, becoming the observer,  helps you step back from that internal conflict and gives you the ability to relax.


What is Meditation and How to Do it Properly?

You just practice letting thoughts come without having an emotional reaction to them.

This is the key at first, and why it’s better to limit it to 20 minutes or maybe 30 minutes at first. We’re so conditioned to having an emotional reaction to our thoughts, that it is a little exhausting and intimidating to allow yourself to have the attitude of letting them come out of their cage, letting them have free reign, if you will. That’s the irony or perhaps paradox of meditation: it’s not about stopping your thoughts, it’s about setting them free. And then the practice is: to observe them without having an emotional reaction to them. And that takes some work, especially at first, because in many cases, some more so than others, our thoughts are intimately intwined or tied to an emotion. With some thoughts it almost feels like our emotion is inseparable from them. But with practice even the most “nuclear force like bound” emotion-thought duo will gradually loosen, and that in itself releases a lot of negative energy stored up in your system. And that’s a place from which a lot more options become available (“Doors start opening in places we never even knew doors existed”) and lot more happiness has the chance to get in.

The Purpose of Mythology

The purpose of mythology is to make you realize that your ego is keeping you from your destiny.

Maybe we shouldn’t say “your” ego because that emphasizes the sense of separateness that the ego function engenders. The definition of ego is the belief, or rather, the sense that you are separate from the outside world, from nature.

So, its purpose is to break that lock and allow the “waters” of the universe to flow back through you, and the breath (the Tchi) of the universe to once again fill your lungs. Just as your physical body would die without water and air, so your “subtle” body (what we in the West may call ‘Soul’) will die without the ‘divine’ water and air. Because, though, it is wrapped in a story that may be historical untrue, rationally untrue, it contains within it the kernel or seed of a transcendent truth. It’s this very transcendence, the “womb of creation” as Deepak calls it, that’s made, and continues to make, everything we know. It’s desire is to come up through you and “marry” these two worlds, that of the internal and that of the external.

Your ego stands exactly in this middle ground between this external infinity (which our telescopes show us) and this internal infinity (which our microscopes show us), and also this transcendent infinity, which our heart shows us. There’s a trinity for you. A trinity that wants to be “Re-Ligio” or relinked, which are the Latin words that our English word Religion, synonymous with Mythology, actually comes from.

So think about this. Religion actually means to “re-link.” It’s the re-linking of eternity with immanence.

“There’s something that wants to be known, a presence.” 

See, that something, which is real and transcendent, can’t be known when an Ego function serves as a sort of ringed fortress, blocking it out.

So the purpose of the mythology, religion, is to break that Ego sphere, and allow the transcendental to pour forth, both up from within, like a hidden spring, and down from without, like a great waterfall or rain.

How to meditate – 2

Okay, so, thoughts are the problem. There’s no question about that. Thoughts are your jailer, but I want to make this as simple as I can. What gives thoughts their energy is your emotional attachment to them. So the practice during meditation is not to try to stop thinking. That’s impossible, at least directly. The practice during meditation is to lose your emotional attachment to thoughts. Then the mind as a whole begins to quiet, and then thoughts dissolve into “flowers.”

The mythological temptations of the Buddha are metaphorical for the psychological temptations of your thoughts to move you emotionally.

So here’s the practice: You’ve got your mantra, you breathe in, you breathe out, and now here comes a thought. What do you do? You don’t try to make it go away. That’s fighting. That’s giving the thought even more energy, and causing the mind to be even more turbulent.

You accept it emotionally. You face it, you don’t run from the thought. And you accept it. You don’t try to fight the thought. And then little by little, as you let go emotionally, you’ll notice a great peace come over you, and you’ll notice the thoughts don’t have control over you anymore. It almost becomes a game really. Okay mind, what are you going to tempt me with next? Something sexy? Something fearful or sad? Or guilt? Bring it on! And the mind is trying to throw you off the balance beam (ie, stop you from meditating) and it becomes fun to see how far you can go without it ‘knocking you down.’

And they (thoughts) begin to dissolve. Transcendence comes through.

Which is the beginning of an adventure.

On Ego: The Labyrinth Metaphor

The labyrinth in which the hero soul has become lost. That’s the place from which we are all starting. Did the ego build this labyrinth? Or is the labyrinth a metaphor for the ego itself? Those are interesting questions, but they aren’t nearly as interesting, practically speaking, as what the Wax String of Theseus stands for. The wax string is a metaphor for the thing that got the hero, Theseus, out of the labyrinth. Some qualities strike me about it:

  • It’s very smallness, thinness, almost invisible quality represents the fact that it is something representative of the spirit, soul, the psychology. It’s easily lost, like a feeling, but if held onto can lead you out.
  • That same narrowness represents single-mindedness of purpose, and an unbending intent. It also represents a psychological commitment. So that nothing distracts from it. It’s very narrow but very long, meaning that, commitment, ironically, leads to freedom, adventure, and, in short, the way out of misery.

Update: 03/11/15:

I’ve been reading a lot of Grimm’s Fairy-Tales in the last few weeks. This kind of material really feeds my soul, makes me happy. But I’ve only been “allowing” myself one or two stories a day. It strikes me that when you find something that really awakens your passion, why compartmentalize or limit yourself to it for one hour a day? My sense of this and similar experiences, is that, like the Wax String, you should hold on to them, not let them go, stay with them, all day and all night, at least until they lead you “out” of the Labyrinth. That’s my sense of “The Hero’s Adventure” and more specifically the metaphorical, or one possible metaphortical meaning of this element in this particular story. 

I Just Couldn’t Let This One Go

“In the end these things matter most: How well did you love?
How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?” 

~ Gautama Buddha

I saw this on Facebook tonight. There was a page called Buddhism. The Part that got me was “How deeply did you let go?” I feel that’s truly such a crucial part of this “Curing Yourself from the Ego” series that I’m trying to write, or more importantly trying to do! I’ve written the last couple of days about cultivating a mood of “Surrender.” Well, letting go, and surrender feel a whole lot alike. Acceptance, letting go, surrender. That’s the sense of it. My problem the last few days, or perhaps all my life, is that I seem to “get” this in the evening, at night, and just before sleep. But the daytime seems to slam the door on such notions. It seems to demand that I ‘do’ something ‘practical’ and forget about all this ‘mumbo-jumbo.’ All sense of mystery, spirit, poetry, adventure, fairy-tales, mythology, that seems to naturally rise during the evening, like the fog off a lake in the morning, seems to all disappear when daytime comes. It’s like living two different realities, or at the least two different moods, and more devastatingly, two opposite moods. I don’t know what to do about it really. Reading Joseph Campbell’s “Creative Mythology” he mentions quite a few times that this is a common theme throughout history, this tension between day and night, the Moon and Sun, and this pull in the soul between the desire for spiritual things on the one hand, and success out there in the world on the other. I have about 50 pages left. I hope to find an answer in there before I’ve finished.

Meditation seems to be about letting go. This evening after a really peaceful walk with Aspen, I came up the deck, and instead of just going inside to watch TV, I decided (or felt like) to meditate out there on the cushioned chaise lounge. It felt right. It was calling. Something was calling. And when I began to meditate, I knew that was the trick, “let go of those thoughts.” It’s not that you get mad for having them. I mean they just pour out of your brain, like water out of a fountain, one after the other, seemingly ever millesecond. It occurred to me, that the trick was not to get to a state where you have no thoughts, but to let them come, and then let them go. Don’t hold on to them. That seems to be the temptation. You want to hold on to the thoughts, especially the ones that trigger emotion because it feels like that is your life, and you have to get back in there and play the movie over and over again. But then when you practice letting the thoughts go, you start to notice them as just thoughts, you start to have a psychological feeling of standing back from them, and they start to lose their power over you. That’s liberation!

I felt like I could have gone on for hours like that, but the mosquitoes started to bite. So I came in. But I did feel like an answer of sorts was presenting itself in that moment. Maybe it’s something I can hang on to and develop further into a solid solution. There’s still many things I’m holding on to, deeply, that I know I need to deeply let go of. That’s the mantra: Let Go. These attachments are not your life. These attachments are what is blocking out your life.

“The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.”  ~ Atisha