It is unlikely that someone can spontaneously accomplish a triathlon. Similarly, most people cannot simply sit down and experience true meditation. A training is required for both. The training for meditation was established many thousand of years ago by the Indian sage Patanjali. He gave the world the system of yoga, which has its emphasis not on physical postures but on a person determining real from unreal. This evaluation stems from discovery of ones true spiritual nature. Patanjali’s system was a step by step set of instructions in how to methodically examine one’s perceptions and what one thinks one knows. This, then, actually reveals all that there is to be known in the vastness of Awareness and spiritual beingness. One’s usual basis of determining reality tends to be from external information and sensorial data. But, Patanjali was an enlightened being in his time and knew that perception can be investigated, and that the layers of real and unreal could be discerned. The process began with withdrawing to a quiet place, then withdrawing the mind and senses from their habit of reacting to outer stimuli. (I believe that Patanjali gave his initial system in the Atlantean times which is tens of thousands of years ago. From the akasha, this shows how meditation pervaded the world and why the training of meditation has the same foundational practices in all spiritual traditions including aboriginal and native practices.)
The person who would become Buddha Shakyamuni had studied and practiced such yogas long before his lifetime as Gautauma. As a result, when he incarnated into the life that has marked human history with his enlightenment, he had already mastered the art of meditation and simply re-integrated that past life training and then furthered it. These two great beings – in Sanskrit called mahasattvas – gave the world the system of meditation that has been practiced by millions of people over millennia.
Most people cannot simply sit down and meditate because they have not experienced enough meditation or yoga training in past lives to do so. Those who can seemingly do so or for whom training seems to flower from within have trained in lives before. This is important to acknowledge. It means that any training given to the art and science of meditation in one’s now will produce its results now but will also foster meditation and its gifts of awareness through future lives.
In both Patanjali’s system and in the Buddha’s teaching, kindness, ethical living, and harmlessness are first and foremost in the training of meditation. The reason for this is because these foster personal dis-interest and put the emphasis of one’s thoughts and responses on the well-being of others. Doing so, the mind is disposed to caring and nurturing thoughts and emotions, to patience and generosity, and to the dissolution of self-drama, self-focus, and self-importance. The latter trouble the mind, agitate emotions, and cause stress and disease in the body. The former generate an open mind, harmony in one’s thoughts and one’s relations with others, and goodness instead of greed is fostered in one’s community and family. These ease the mind, open the heart which bring forward the spiritual nature, intuition, and result in a happy long life. Obviously, it is easier to bring serenity to one’s mind during a meditation sitting if it is not troubled by anger, worry, or a hardened heart, which is why meditation training begins with living from the better qualities of one’s self and human beingness.
In The Practice of Living Awareness, these are positive qualities are inculcated in the first few steps of The Practice. For example, “we smile …” A smile is currency. It expresses an abundance of the heart. It accompanies wisdom and understanding as they arise and is the partner of patience. Smile arises in the joy of gratitude, appreciation, and wonder. Smile can begin a process of perspective and right relations with a moment, a person, a need, or that which needs to be let go.
Then we breathe. The long slow deep breath is a moment of depersonalization, detachment, and of simply allowing the moment to be as it is. The breath is generous – always giving. Breath is smooth – a flow of truth. Breath offers life and reminds us of the preciousness of everything and anything.
Each of the first five steps of The Practice encapsulate the teaching within Patanjali’s Raja Yoga system of meditation training and then adds the teaching in mindfulness and mindful breathing of Buddha Shakyamuni. These are accomplished through drawing upon the senses and sensation, and using these to bring one to a more mindful, present state of awareness. The senses are used because these are the most developed in a human being – more than the mind. Our collective human challenge is that modern society has developed distraction to a pinnacle point, has drugged the senses with caffeine and sugar, and has drawn attention away from the bodily senses and the ongoing information and intuition they are reporting. As a result, many people don’t know their body, don’t register their thoughts, can’t harness their passions or appetites, nor trust their intuitive perception. As a result, meditate is difficulty as is serenity with life.
Meditation training takes time because – for many people – there’s a fair amount of decluttering and preliminary work necessary to be done first. This is rather like cleaning the counter and sink before being able to prepare a a fresh meal.
The Practice of Living Awareness can teach a person how to meditate. But doing so takes time. This is not because The Practice is ineffective but because there’s a lot that needs to be established or transformed in a person before meditation, true meditation, can be discovered as innate and within. Meditation is the pervasive state of the inner spiritual nature. Serenity and harmony are the expression of this, and harmlessness and kindness are its signature demonstrations. For these reasons we smile with every sitting. Learning to meditate is definitely a training: one that will serve every aspect of one’s life, health, and relational well-being as well as one’s lives to come.
I hope you will continue your meditative practice, no matter what practice you do. The Practice of Living Awareness will begin a new round on Monday, September 14 for all levels (Entry, Intermediate, and Generative). The blog has meditations and training to explore until then. Explore yourself. Explore The Practice.
- Should you have interest in Patanjali’s system for meditation, a small group of us took up discussion on his Yoga Sutras for over a year. The edited podcasts of each week’s discussion are posted on my other blog, Blazing Light. The podcasts of each week are divided into short podcasts according to the sutra being discussed and named by the subject being discussed. Check it out! Here are a few selections pertinent to meditation.
- Components of meditation
- Patanjali, Ishvara, and meditation