Like last week this week’s posting is also rather long. Do you prefer shorter ones? It gets worse. Not only is it long but this week there are even end notes! As if that wasn’t enough here’s a special treat. This link takes you to a lovely little animation on reconciliation. It was an international collaboration between friends in Argentina, the Philippines, and Hungary.
Last time: Going Deeper.
This Time: Our Meeting, More Meditation and a special treat
Principle 2. The Principle of Action and Reaction. Fourth Week.
When you force something towards an end you produce the contrary.
Over the last weeks we looked at the general structure and meaning of this principle. We thought about how this principle played out (or didn’t) in our past. We focused on situations where I applied, or violated, this principle in the present and reflected on the consequences This week let’s imagine our future and try to imagine how this principle might apply, and what possibilities, or difficulties, it might hold in the situations we see facing us.
This week’s meeting is an opportunity to discuss our thoughts, doubts, questions, and insights about this principle. If you can’t join us for that interchange you might consider creating a situation where you can meet with with others for an hour or so a week in a meeting of your own. If you need help figuring out how to do that just get in touch.
General Considerations and Personal Reflections:
I hope these reflections might be useful raw material for your own meditations and they are being shared in that spirit.
Last week we made reference to Simple Meditation, and Meditation on the Principle. Also we often refer to the experiential work we carry out in our weekly meetings as meditation. I find that when I invite people to this meeting most of them respond with varying degrees of interest (and varying degrees of sincerity). They usually say something like: “Oh I’ve been thinking of starting to meditate” Or perhaps, “I’ve been thinking of taking it up again”. And not uncommonly, “Can I come sometime?” It’s a situation I’ve written about before http://tinyurl.com/h3glw6o though from a slightly different angle.
At the time I wrote that earlier piece no one had ever asked me: “what’s meditation” or “what kind of meditation is it?” That’s no longer quite true and since then a couple of people have asked things like that. Perhaps that’s a good sign.
In those considerations, I ask whether the practices that will give us lower blood pressure, or greater productivity can really be the same as those that engaged people like the Buddha in arduous efforts, day after day for years (or lifetimes). According to what those spiritual searchers have told us they were aiming at very different results than those most often touted as the benefits of “meditating”.
In any case, when people use this term what do they actually mean? It’s pretty clear there’s lots of very different things that go by the same name. Since the 14th Century the word, in ordinary usage, has meant something like “to calmly think about something”.* Often however the word is used to refer to one of a number of particular practices, very likely associated with the East (certainly Westerners generally seem to know less about similar practices in their own traditions).**
At the present time, when people mention meditation they are more often than not referring to what is called, “insight, or mindfulness meditation”. If you delve in a little more deeply however you will find that even in one current, of say Buddhism for example, not only are there many different kinds of meditation, but many different ideas about what is apparently one specific practice, e.g. mindfulness.*** We have to conclude that there are lots of things called meditation, even when they are called by the same name or exist in a single tradition. Historically they don’t all have the same goal, they don’t all produce the same results — not to say that they all aren’t beneficial in different ways.
So do you meditate like a Theravaden monk or a Tibetan lama? Like a Stoic philosopher or an Orthodox elder? A Hindu yogi, or a post-modern one?
And if the many roads do not all lead to Rome how do I know which is the right one for me? Perhaps, by thinking (meditating!) on what I want. Where do I want to go? Perhaps not to Rome. Is this a path that leads in the direction I seek? Why in fact am I doing this exercise? What do I hope to attain?
There’s no reason a person shouldn’t use a certain practice to lower their blood pressure, or reduce anxiety if that works for them — even if that practice was originally proposed as a way of waking up and seeing reality in a new way. It is a shame though to settle for increasing our productivity if our hope was to plunge into the heart of reality; to discover the sacred; to live life more deeply; to wake up.
As I’ve pointed out back in November (Principle 11, 3rd week) even in our short, weekly gatherings there are various different kinds of meditation. (You can find that reference here: http://tinyurl.com/jjmjhmy, just look for the picture of a two-headed monster puppet.)
At Our Weekly Meeting:
Each week, in a period of perhaps 45 minutes, we use a number of procedures. We meditate on one of the principles, and also use various procedures to relax muscular, emotional and mental tensions. But the goal of central practices is twofold, as is explained in chapter XV of the Inner Look****. The first of these is the “experience of peace” aimed, as the name suggests, at producing a profound internal peace. The second is the experience of the “passage of the force” aimed at the circulation of, contact with, or increase in the force that gives energy to our bodies and our minds. Before we finish we turn our thought the needs of others and how we might better connect with them.
At the end of the meeting we summarize the goal of these practices in the phrase: Peace, Force and Joy.
This week we are considering this principle and how it applies to our present situation. Next week we’ll look at how the principle of action and reaction might apply in the future. All of this is not just in order to deepen our understanding this particular principle, but also to begin to reflect more rigorously about our daily behaviour.
Much of the time when I’m supposedly awake, I am in reality in a state closer to dreaming.
The ongoing meditations on the principle are not just, or even primarily, about getting a handle on the principle in question. The greater goal is to turn the principles into a way of life. Rather than seeing them in terms of objects, or objectives, perhaps it is useful to understand them as guideposts that can help to give our lives a certain direction. It is that intangible, but vital, direction that some of us believe is the most important thing one can have in life. Not something perfected, or finally accomplished, but a moving towards — hesitantly or firmly — directly or in a round about way — a finding one’s way towards.
These notes have been posted on Facebook and sent to our email list.
A slightly different version is available on instagram. Look for silo_toronto
We’d all love to hear your comments, thoughts, considerations, artwork, etc about any of this.
There are currently 2 Parks of Study and Reflection in North America. These are Red Bluff (www.redbluffpark.org) in California and Hudson Valley (www.hudsonvalleypark.org) in New York. The Parks of Study and Reflection are projects built and paid for by individuals inspired by Silo’s teachings. More information is available on their respective websites.
*If you look it up the etymology seems pretty straight forward. It is thought that the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root is “med” which also gives us words like measure (e.g. measured thought). Hence words like the ancient Greek medesthai “to think about”, the Latin modus “measure” but also mederi “to heal’ and medicus “physician”.
**Not only do most religions have related practices of their own but the scholars tell us that so did philosophical schools (like the Stoics).
***When it comes to mindfulness, you will find that what is meant by the term today is generally a particular variant of Vipassanā meditation with an emphasis on “bare attention” directed towards breathing, thoughts, feelings or actions. This approach (rooted in oder practices but developed in the 1950s in what is now Myanmar) may be very different from the understanding of Vipassanā-meditation (insight meditation, mindfulness) in, other traditions, even other Buddhist ones. Many of these traditions also teache other exercises (meditations) very different from the mindfulness type.
****XV. The Experience of Peace and the Passage of the Force
- Completely relax your body and quiet your mind. Then, imagine a transparent and luminous sphere that descends toward you until it comes to rest in your heart. In that moment you will recognize that the sphere ceases to appear as an image and transforms into a sensation within your chest.
- Observe how the sensation of the sphere slowly expands from your heart toward the outside of your body, while your breathing becomes fuller and deeper. When the sensation reaches the limits of your body, you may stop there and register the experience of internal peace. You may remain there as long as you feel is appropriate. To conclude the exercise, calm and renewed, reverse the previous expansion until arriving, as in the beginning, at your heart, and finally releasing the sphere. This work is called the experience of peace.
- Should you instead wish to experience the passage of the Force, you must increase the expansion rather than reversing it, allowing your emotions and your whole being to follow along. Do not try to pay attention to your breathing; let it act by itself while you follow the expansion outward from your body.
- Let me repeat: Your attention at such moments must be on the sensation of the expanding sphere. If you are unable to achieve this, it is advisable that you stop and try again another time. In any case, even if you do not produce the passage of the Force, you will be able to experience an interesting sensation of peace.
- If, however, you go further, you will begin to experience the passage of the Force. The sensations from your hands and other areas of your body will have a different tone than usual. Later you may notice increasing undulations, and in a short while vivid images and powerful emotions may arise. Allow the passage to take place…
- Upon receiving the Force you will, depending upon your habitual mode of representation, perceive the light or strange sounds. In any case, what is important is that you experience an amplification of consciousness, among whose indicators are a greater lucidity and disposition to understand what is taking place.
- If this singular state has not faded with the passage of time, you can bring it to an end whenever you wish by imagining or feeling that the sphere contracts and then leaves you in the same way it arrived in the beginning.
- It is interesting to recognize that many altered states of consciousness have been and are almost always achieved through the use of mechanisms similar to those described. These may be disguised, however, by strange rituals, or at times reinforced by practices involving extreme fatigue, unbridled motor activity, repetition, and postures that alter the breathing and distort the general sensation of the intrabody. In this domain you should also recognize hypnosis, mediumistic activity, and the effects of drugs—all of which, though they act through a different pathway, produce similar alterations. Characteristic of all these cases is an absence of control and a lack of awareness of what is taking place. Do not trust such manifestations, and consider them nothing more than “trances” such as those through which the dabblers, the ignorant, and (according to legend) even the “saints” have passed.
- Even if you have followed these recommendations, you may still have been unable to produce the passage of the Force. This should not become a source of concern, however—simply take it as an indicator of a lack of internal “letting go,” which may reflect excessive tensions or problems with the dynamics of the images—in sum, a fragmentation of emotional behavior—something that will, moreover, also be present in your daily life.