The foundation of spirituality is meditation. What defines it?
The intent and the journey itself are the determining factors. Arriving at a special inner space where we feel full, authentic, centered, focused, clear and empowered requires that we allow ourselves to perceive beyond material and mental objectives. When we become aware of process rather than end result, the reality that reveals itself to us is expansive, deep, inclusive and highly satisfying. Whatever the style, the goal in meditation is the experience of a natural transcendence that awakens usually hidden aspects of life.
It is a common mistake to think that we “do” meditation. In truth, the only activity involved is whatever is necessary to shift our attention away from common distractions so that we perceive a much broader scenario. Meditation captures motion and impressions that occur beyond the threshold of ordinary senses. For the authentic meditator it includes daily life and all the in-betweens, particularly other dimensions of Consciousness. It involves the subtle world of sensitivities and experiences so characteristic of higher dimensional levels. In this sense, high philosophy and mathematics may also be considered meditation.
Many people believe that we need to sit quietly, empty the mind, and disconnect from stimuli of our noisy life. Actually, to arrive at the “beyond” state requires a considerable amount of arranging and sensory activation. This includes mobilizing or immobilizing the body, regulating the breath somehow, listening to or emitting sound, focusing attention through the breath, the eyes, the tip of the nose, or a phrase to be repeated over and over. We practice it in-between chores or during moments set aside for it. It has become something that we “do” in order to “not do”, and still further what we need to do in active participation of life.
The conjured image of a meditator is someone who sits cross-legged in lotus posture with palms up, down, or fingers interwoven in some fashion, and with closed eyes that too often reveal a fluttering of the pupils (supposedly to raise the “kundalini”). It is not all this that makes it meditation; in fact most of us don’t do that anymore. The goal is what we reach, the experience of Oneness with Creation. When integrated into our daily life, it is bound to change our outside world and our relationships. Meditation is the reason that the world is changing so much and so quickly today. New paradigms are arising, gender roles are being upset, and all sort of patterns and beliefs are no longer valid. All because enough people decided to look within.
Meditation became attractive in the sixties as a result of the hallucinogenic context that emerged to compensate for the turbulence of ongoing wars and sustained strife. It was smart to be part of the group that explored aspects and levels of reality by spacing out. Anything was better than facing the insanity of the surrounding world. A book that supported left-brain shutdown, “Be Here Now”, became a best seller. It defined the current that flowed through intellectuals and hippies alike, as well as the trends that announced the Age of Aquarius, the New Age. With rituals and the revival of ancient practices, aspects of religion such as Zen became fashionable, as did the Hindu vein that was conveyed through the Beatles, poetic Westernized versions of Sufism à la Pir Vilayat Khan, and the happy, lively Americanized song and dance routines of Sufi Sam. So too, the exoticism and dynamism of martial arts with Bruce Lee, Castaneda’s Shamanism, psychotherapy with Esalen and the bioenergetics machinery. Janis Joplin ripped her heart open and so many solemnly nodded with sympathy and made for the “weed”. It was an intense period that presented many options; a tremendous and exotic array of things to “do” in order to “not do”, all inspired by the need for the authenticity that meditation promises.
Through the decades that followed, those who couldn’t coherently hold onto the formalized lifestyle and fulfill with the demands of the world, simply fell out or lost themselves in drugs. New people entered into the scene, such as the yuppies, the academics, and erstwhile CEO’s who turned yoga teachers. Meditation became a business as well as a subject for jokes in cabarets, trending the wealthy and the literati, together with health foods and vegetarianism. Meditation became serious, respectable.
However, together with the mental spaciousness induced, certain apathy set in. Emotional reflexes that promote depth and involvement in finer sensitivities were quietly deadened. Coupled with advancements in technology and computer science, i-pads, and gadgets of every sort that substitute contact with life in the flesh, meditation insured that the participant did not engage in the deeper aspect of human involvement. It became politically correct to be “non-attached”. Observation, the cornerstone of meditation developed into a disconnected state-of-the-art.
At the present moment, many people feel dreadfully incoherent and don’t know why. The goal reached through a changed private lifestyle is at odds with the overall rhythm and façade of life. It lacks the emotional context of flexibility and depth that were left behind in an urge to escape the pain and suffering of mass trauma. The planet keenly feels the effects of pollution and diseases, natural disasters, stubborn policies, and man-triggered catastrophes. It yearns for a mythical purity, while the collective imposes more rules and demands more “doing”. Furthermore, eating and mating habits tend to be so costly, or sterilized, that it is difficult to bridge the inner realm with the world we try to construct around us. A great confusion arises around the concept of personal and collective responsibility, each passing the buck to the other. In a reversal of our former inclinations in self-denial, exaggeration and excess is now the name of the game.
As much as we delight in following processes and different styles in order to distance ourselves in the one hand, or inebriate ourselves on the other, the place we reach within ourselves is no longer good enough. Meditation called for observation but it now calls for extended sensitivity in the application of its fruits within our lifestyle and concrete beliefs. We would do well to pay more attention to the symphonies of feeling that the universe holds in the simplest of things in life, beginning with personal intimacy and extending forth into all aspects of humanity.
And, this is where women, whose feeling contacts the depth of life, come in.