Step 12, The Central Channel, brings awareness to the stream of energy that moves along the spine connecting the energy centers to higher levels of consciousness. Body and ground are now a part of our meditation training, providing the stability necessary to focus on some of the inner energy sciences of The Practice of Living Awareness. The mind, the body, and the subtle energy systems have been incrementally prepared for the last few steps of the practice.
The central channel is our core from within. It energetically connects the above to the below, and vice versa. It is the physiological reason why a backbone and central nerve exist; in the grand design, they are the dense forms of the subtle central channel. Five of the seven primary chakra centers are aligned along the central channel. This serves as the primary avenue of alignment with the higher-self (soul or beyond), and the mechanism through which higher universal intentions calibrate and integrate into an ever-evolving human being. Yes! Happy connecting and meditating!
In the recent Oklahoma meditation retreat, I taught a technique that will result in tranquility and presence. In other words, it will bring about the foundational meditation experience of shamatha (tranquil or peaceful abiding).
Patanjali and Buddha Shakyamuni, the two great sources of meditation training, agree that the foundation of all states and levels of meditation is shamatha. Unto itself, shamatha is delicious and vibrant. The experience is a state of peace, stability, and ease. For the beginner meditator, this state might last only seconds at first, but the experience is unmistakable and is the carrot that keeps the person coming back to the cushion. For the middle-range meditator, once shamatha arises it can be sustained for minutes before thoughts float through the peaceful mindstream like clouds in the sky. Like a child chasing bubbles, however, the middle-range practitioner will follow the clouds without realizing it, and … poof … the state disappears.
With practice, the state of contented mind at ease in the moment and present can be elongated. The time and space expands between the coalescing of cloud-like arising thoughts in the sky-like mind, and peaceful stability – vibrant, radiant, and pure – will remain so until the personal mind interrupts it.
Shamatha is the ground upon which all meditative states and levels of meditation are built and thus all samadhis and all emptinesses are born from. Without shamatha, there is no meditation. In The Practice of Living Awareness, the first seven steps break down how to establish oneself in this necessary and potentially profound ground. Here in this Intermediate meditation, the essential instruction is given.
In Buddhism there is a phrase, “There is one ground.” The statement refers to the one ground of Awareness.
Realizing that Awareness is the only true ground,
one realizes the source of one’s reality,
and realizes the foundation for all conditioned or non-conditioned states of being.
This precious image of a young meditator levitating is displaying that he has realized this one ground, has understood that he IS this ground, and thus has chosen to create a reality that accords with awareness. Levitation, be it factual or a metaphor for the ability to rise above lower mind and emotion states, is possible because the person has shifted from an identification with density and circumstance to the liberated state of a non-limited identity.
Meditation is the path of dis-identification, an incremental and self-chosen diligence regarding how one interacts with seeming reality, including the reality of one’s self. Meditation does not necessarily say that mundane reality is “wrong” or “of less value, but instead invites an ongoing contemplation of true and lasting value of word, action, things, people, and one’s self as currently perceived. Meditation training, then, peels away the outer appearances and seemings by training the practitioner to come inside, to quieten the emotion-mind complex, and rest all reactions. In time, and with practice, magic – represented by the metaphor of levitation – happens.
Little by little one’s perceptions really do change! Little by little, meditators find that that which was coarse or dense or distracting or unimportant have no appeal. Harsh words are replaced with listening and responsiveness. Impatience falls away, as do other self-centered, self-focused behaviors. One discovers that, not only are people around one happier and feel genuinely met, but the meditator is generally happier too. Consistently. She or he has discovered the One Ground of Awareness.
Welcome back to the Intermediate Practice of Living Awareness!