Meditation. Perceived by many as a wondrous, mystical experience, reserved for those on the path to Enlightenment, attained by the Enlightened.
Yes, to all those things.
What we’re seldom told explicitly is that it’s a very practical and useful practice. Furthermore, we all engage in it at some point or another during our lives without being aware we’re doing it. When we’re unaware of what we’re doing, it’s very difficult to replicate the experience and the results. We place ourselves in the position of always waiting for accidents to happen.
When I first began my meditation practice almost 30 years ago, I was told that meditation was
Sitting in lotus position;
Focusing on rhythmically breathing in and out;
Stilling the mind.
I chose to sit in a comfortable chair (never have been a fan of sitting on the floor). Rhythmic breathing was pretty self-explanatory. My challenge was in stilling the mind. No matter how many mantras I tried, how many candle flames I stared into, how many balloons I imagined floating away with my thoughts, my mind would not be still!
Nonetheless, I persevered. My experience with stilling the mind?
There’s no such thing!
The mind by its very nature is constantly moving, darting from thought to thought. Kind of like a cat swatting at the next shiny thing that comes into its field of vision, so the mind chases every thought that comes on its radar screen.
Over the years, I’ve come to understand that the mind the mystics speak of in their writings, is not the one scrambling about the confines of my human experience. They speak of the One Mind that expresses individually through each of us.
The mind that expresses individually through each of us I call the chattering mind. It’s the mind that frets about whether or not you’ll read this post. Will you find it useful? Is there anything I could have written to make it clearer? Am I making the case? Writing is not my strong suit. Maybe I shouldn’t have attempted to explain such a thing. Sages waaayyyy more learned and wise than I can ever be have tried, their writings survive… Maybe I’m the only one who’s too obtuse to get it… etc., etc., etc!
She’s exhausting, that one, the Chatterer!
Some years ago, I noticed there was another voice speaking to me (yes, in my head, behind my right ear to be exact!). She speaks very calmly and firmly. Her voice is the one that says: Write the post. As the Chatterer continues her chatter, the small still voice just continues saying, calmly and firmly: Write the post.
It took me a long time to figure out that these were two different voices, accessing different states of being.
The Chatterer is the voice of my human experience. The one that chronicles and expresses the physical world I live in. The one that’s rooted in the “reality” of this world. The small still voice is the voice of the Divine Being expressing through the human experience. She’s the one who remembers that I Am more than the body I currently inhabit. That I know more than I’ve learned in this lifetime. She’s my connection to Infinite Wisdom.
Once I understood the two different voices, I finally got what “stilling the mind” means. It means, “quiet the Chatterer so I can hear the small still voice!”
When I learned the technique of mantra repetition decades ago, it was hard for me to grasp how repeating a word or phrase in an ancient language would help me pay the rent. However, diligent yogini that I was then, I persevered. The answer is quite simple: Repeating a word or mantra like an incantation is not the point of the practice. The point of the practice is to give the Chatterer something to do (she likes to be busy and feel she’s in control). I began noticing that when the Chatterer was busy, it was easier for me to recognize and hear my small still voice.
Essentially, while the Chatterer crashed in a system overload by repeating a mantra, my small still voice was able to override the crashed Chatterer and I started receiving guidance on which I could act and succeed in things like getting the rent paid. Hah!
And that’s how stilling the mind looks to me. Nothing mystical about it. Just practice.