Beginners Meditation

“Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.”  ~ Thomas Merton

Too often we complicate the practice of meditation. We are too concerned with whether we are doing it right or not—am I breathing too deep, too shallow, am I thinking too much, not enough, am I too worried about whether I am doing this right or not? None of this matters. Practice isn't concerned with doing it right or wrong; it is only concerned with the fact that we are doing it. Yes, it is true that your mind is racing a thousand miles an hour, but you are witnessing that speed and chaos, instead of caught up in it. That is an interesting point.

Typical ego consciousness—the overlay of paranoia and grossly self-defeating states of mind that most of us walk around in everyday—is obsessed with who we are and how others perceive that. When measured against the competitive agendas of our families, religious beliefs, political ideologies, popular culture, and our personal fears and expectations who or what we are always feels divisive and insufficient. No matter how hard we try there is some faction of our mind stream left unsatisfied. We feel like we can't do anything right.

Meditation practice is not concerned with who or what I am, but that I am.There is a sense of belonging that naturally arises out of being present. In fact, the experience of presence transcends the question of belonging altogether—I am here, what is the point of questioning that? Why am I here, or should I be here is answered by the experience of being here, now. I am not the self-defeating narrative nor the endless list of justifications that arises in response to that narrative. "I am-ness" is embodiment. It is the witnessing presence that holds the space and watches as each thought arises and passes away in due time.

We live in a culture of sickness. So, life is one great big search for a remedy—the perfect self-help book, diet, pill, or life strategy. But meditation isn't just another solution floating around in the economy of sickness. Meditation practice invites us into the experience of confidence—the space just beyond the tacit assumption that we are broken. Silence does not present itself as the magical missing ingredient. It challenges the premise that anything is missing.

Practice isn't about solving anything—including the fact that our thinking mind is always trying to solve something. Meditation challenges the idea that something is missing by bringing you into the space of the body. We've been exiled from the body for so long that it exists as nothing more than a vague memory—a nostalgic recollection of innocence and purity, vitality, passion, and wakefulness. This is what gives rise to the sub-conscious belief that something is missing. Meditation practice shows us that nothing is missing. The body has simply been misplaced.

How do we recover the embodiment of our youth?

Fixing is never the objective. When you try to change your life by going into "fix it mode"—regardless of whether you have a positive agenda or not—you maintain the same level of ego consciousness. "Fix it mode" is ego consciousness. 

Thoughts, both positive and negative, arise. That is natural. But we take the constant chatter so personal—sitting in our head we feel very much like a paranoid, self-conscious eighth grader sitting in the cafeteria: "Are they laughing at me...are they talking about me?" The whole world revolves around me—not just what others think, but every thought that pops up in my head is referring back to me: "Am I doing this right? Should I be doing it like this? I just don't get it...I never do anything right!"

There is no room to breathe. Meditation begins with the breath. Just breath. Simply notice the coolness of the in-breath and the warmth of the out breath. Nothing personal. Reclaim the space of the impersonal, the body. In the beginning we are exercising the silent witness. That is the change. We are going from "fix it mode" to "just take a breath mode." This is a universal transition, meaning that when you notice that you are in "fix it mode" do not try to fix that, just take a breath. Allow the breath to open you up. 

The shift from an overbearing "Mr. Fix it God" that rules over your heart from the sky of our mind to a Spinoza God who just silently watches and allows events to unfold within the context of your life is the renewal. This renewal is marked by the seal of silence—it is never subsidized by affirmations or reassurances. In the space of the body there is no need for cheap validations. It is the ego that tells itself, "Everything is OK... I deserve to be loved." The ego has to constantly offer itself these reassurances because deep down it fears everything is falling apart; because deep down the ego hates itself. The ego really hates that we have an ego, that is the nature of the ego that sits on the cushion bludgeoning you to death for not doing it right. 

While this renewal is by no means the final insight, it does mark the beginnings of a new center—a point that predates any agenda, bias, or self-judgment and out of which your true life unfolds. While no immediate change in behavior or lifestyle may take place, this new center is the discovery of deeper soil—a subterranean self, the witness, which is capable of being present but non-judgmental, awake but not rigid, afraid but not paralyzed. This witnessing self, when nourished with the light of conscious awareness and the water of consistency and discipline, will grow, like a seed. It will crack through the dry and desolate ground of your ego-centric state of mind and bring new life.

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