OMG! Meditation is a wild and wooly terrain all its own. There is so much information out there, so much INSTRUCTION—what when why where how. And so many people have such strong opinions about it.
It doesn’t have to be that complicated.
In the 1970s Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came West and the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement was born. TM is all about chanting a (secret) mantra. Very esoteric, enlightened, and special, yah?
Maybe not so much.
I do like to hear John Hagelin, Ph.D. talk. He has a great interview at Buddha at the Gas Pump and his 16 min ad for TM is pretty compelling, what with all the scientific research “proving” the superiority of TM. But, really, TM is the only group that’s sunk tons of money into the research. Anyone who’s studied statistics knows: You can make the graphs, pie charts, numbers prove whatever you want them to prove! So, if you’re sold go buy it. But, honestly, I’m not into sitting there for 20 minutes or however long and silently, inwardly chanting a mantra. Too much like daily life for my tastes. Meaning: More garbage for the inner sanctum. I know, I have such spiritual speak, hehe.
What is the inner sanctum?
Well, there may be some book or organization or group who has some definition of the inner sanctum, but for me, it’s just that place inside you that exists for two and only two. Those two would be YOU and THE DIVINE (or whatever you like to call it.) That’s it. No one else get’s to enter. Ever. Never. No one. It is not a geographical or biological location, although it might feel like it’s in your chest somewhere. But no one else belongs there. That means: No one else’s mantra or image(s) belong there either.
I mean all day long aren’t we already bombarded by one another? It’s all—okay, it’s not all—well-meaning, but the point is: There is a point where we connect with the sacred and it’s private. Personal. Sans other humans.
So I just don’t like dragging other folks in there, not gurus, yogis, other mystics, meditation teachers, pastors, priests, your mother, your father, your kids, your lover—whoever—they don’t get to go THERE. So ix-nay on their antras-may!
That being said, I’ve been meditating off-and-on now for almost thirty years. Unbelievable, but it’s true.
And really, you start where you start. I’ve experimented with all kinds of meditation, and have just ended up settling with what feels right to me.
There are three basic types of meditation:
1. Focused awareness: Focus on the breath, focus on a mantra, focus on the sensations in your body …
2. Generative: Visualize yourself on a beach, imagine yourself as radiant loving kindness, see yourself as pulsing awareness …
3. Open-Ended … sit or lie quietly, close your eyes, be still, be aware of, engage, notice whatever arises from within you…
The open-ended type gets a lot less press, I think. Not too many high-powered sales folks involved … because, well, what is there to sell? How much would you pay someone to say: Sit or lie quietly, close your eyes, be still, be aware of, engage, notice whatever arises within you.
Can you guess which is my favored type of meditation?
My experience, open-ended meditation is extremely subtle and extremely powerful. The effects are cumulative. No, you don’t have to practice every day. It seems the effects accumulate even when you take time off. Correspondingly, the benefits seem to increase the more consistent you are with the practice.
It also makes for a completely personal inward journey.
Your experience might have similarities with others, but it won’t manifest, reveal, or unwind in exactly the same way. Simply because you’re you. And you’re unique. And you’re connection, experience, relationship with the Divine (or whatever) will be distinct from anyone else’s.
But it can be quite the fun, thrilling ride, the Cosmic Game. It won’t ever be what you think it will be. I can promise you that.
Plus, it’s simple. Free. Available to us all. This door we can choose to open, at almost any time.
So I like it.
I call the kind of meditation I do: Wabi-Sabi meditation.
Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese term I was exposed to several years ago. And as soon as I gained an understanding of its meaning, I just fell in love. Like Wabi-Sabi might be my favorite term ever. I just hear those two words together and I melt.
Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete".
Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.
It just makes me swoon. What in life if not transient and imperfect; impermanent and incomplete?
My meditation, if it is anything, is my best attempt to practice a kind of inner Wabi-Sabi. There are times I sit just to take out the inner garbage. Thoughts bubble up in an endless refrain. I sit with them. Sometimes that can last through days, weeks, months of sittings. Then the inner pool gurgles clear. Not because I'm forcing myself to not think. There just seems to be no more inner garbage at the moment. Sometimes my sittings are so inwardly silent, I feel like I am floating in the Cosmic Void. Other times a creative thought or idea arises. Other times clarity and insight about some ISSUE. And then there are the times when rivers of pure emotion gush through me: could be anger with no identifiable source, or melting love, the same. I never really know what I’m going to get. But that’s the way I like it. And I do my best to stay with whatever arises. And of course, I do that imperfectly. Because it’s all impermanent and incomplete.
And that’s the beauty of it.
“Watch each wave come to you," Tatou said. "Receive the energy it brings. Breathe it in, deep into your belly. Do that for as long as you can.”
Melia didn’t believe the Great White Sea could give her energy. Rather than refuse to try, she decided to follow her friend’s instructions precisely and prove nothing would happen. At least sitting on the beach was an improvement over sitting in a Bryndale classroom.
The first wave, crested with white foam, rolled toward her. It was a simple thing to synchronize her breathing. Inhale when the tide comes in. Exhale when the tide flows out. Repeat over and over and over until …
My belly and the ocean are one. My mind stops spinning. And the fear that ripples through me settles like sand on the ocean floor.
The ancient rhythm of the ocean holds the pattern of my breath.
The salty air stings my nose and expands my lungs. Each exhale carries away something I thought was mine but never was.
Memories misshaped by guilt, shame, and regret dissolve.
My heart feels clean, yet nothing has been lost.
I can sit here forever.
Melia turned her head. Tatou sprang into focus.
“What happened?” the pixie asked.
“I feel like I belong here. Like I’m part of the Whole.”—Half Mortal, Daughter of Light
On Sunday, I’ll have a special and final Sunburned post for you!