'Running around a courtyard three times without thinking of the word monkey'.
'Building a ground-level ceiling'.
'Banging a drum in search of a fugitive'.
Resistance To Meditation
A feeling of 'resistance' to meditation is commonplace. We find ourselves getting
sidetracked by all kinds of different things such that we don't get down to
doing it enough, and when we do get down to it we may find all kinds of inner
voices distracting us in one way or another. Worry not. This is normal. The more
meditation you do (within reason) the better you become at being able to motivate
yourself to do it in the first place (because, generally speaking, it 'feels good'
and you tend to have a sense that this is positively changing the way you feel and
the way you look at things in general). Secondly, with practise you should find it
more and more easy to 'bring your mind back' from any distraction.
Perhaps feelings of resistance to meditation may have their origins in
an awareness (even if consciously denied) that by looking inside there may be
some 'truths' that you would rather not deal with right now. Similarly
what we think of as ourselves may really more of a coalition of 'part-selves',
and the disruptive parts may feel a little threatened by a practise that engenders
Don't worry. Be gentle with yourself. Even the disruptive
sub-entites may well end up enjoying themselves! If you feel cynical about what
meditation can do, then at least be willing to 'suspend your disbelief' somewhat.
Give it a try with an open mind.
If meditation catalyses real problems for you then tread carefully. Perhaps you
should cut back on your practise, or change your practise (perhaps to some very
simple health and life-affirming method). Maybe finding a sensible and insightful
teacher or counsellor may be in order if things get particularly difficult, but
please remember that such difficulties are unusual.
There are many different ways of meditating but there is a common thread running
through many if not most of the techniques I have experienced. This 'something'
is a little hard to describe, but I'll try nevertheless. Once you've experienced
it then it WILL make sense, hopefully! The difficulty comes from explaining a
'trick' that's a bit subtle- Sufis have sometimes compared it to 'running around
a courtyard three times without thinking of the word "monkey"'! Nice description.
Firstly, we are fostering a sense of 'awareness' that is calm and not forced, and
which is lucid but (generally) not TOO goal-oriented or analytical. We are aiming to
concentrate the mind, while at the same fostering a sense of integration. In the
Bhagavad-Gita, it says somewhere 'worship is continual remembrance'. Implicit
in this is the idea that in meditation we are not looking for anything that we
can't find inside ourselves already, and it's also congruent with what a western
scientist would call 'homeostasis' (or self-regulation). Leaving aside the
mystical cosmology implicit in the quote for the moment, we see that all living
things are more or less homeostatic. That is, left to their own devices, with a
minimum of interference, they tend toward a state of 'balance' or optimimum
In many ways the 'trick' of meditation involves LETTING that natural
balance reassert itself by relaxing the body and mind (that is usually very caught
up in mundane action/semi-conscious daydreaming). By allowing the mind to be calm and
focussed and positive, less 'in-the-way' and more facilitative of body-mind
integration, we allow body and mind to heal themselves, and function more cohesively.
Finding this 'trick' may be a preamble, leading to some particular intention, or it
may be a worthwhile end in itself.
The issue of 'intent' or 'goal-orientation' raises many questions of
a philosophical/religious nature which I don't intend(!) to go into here, although
some of the practises here do aim to focus 'willed intent'. However, most of the
meditative techniques described here aim more toward 'letting' body and mind regain
their inherent composure, 'letting' self and other or Self and Universe get
re-connected. 'Letting' the Tao, if you like, express itself more effectively. And to
this end, what Zen practitioners sometimes call 'no-mind' is the ideal state. Say
for example that you are able to experience even just a few seconds in which your
awareness is focussed on an image or state of mind in which there is NO 'internal
dialogue', which nevertheless feels very 'lucid'. (Paradox again!). In my experience
even a few seconds of this will tend to impart feelings of contentment and healing
which remain for a long time after the meditation itself.
Similarly, it can often be a mistake to 'prejudge' the meditation experience: if
you try too hard to achieve certain goals that you may have mapped out for
yourself before actually doing a fair amount of meditation, then this CAN be
very much a case of 'chasing your tail' (although not always). Generally
meditation can allow access to states of consciousness that lie a little way
beyond 'normal everyday consciousness', so it's only when we SUSPEND that
controlling, flippertygibbet, 'normal everyday' mind that the landscape beyond
the 'gateless gate' becomes apparent...
One of the potential benefits of meditation has to do with what I call
'metaprogramming'. In meditation, where the usual 'noise' of the mind has subsided,
and where certain brain waves appear to be unusually active, it seems to
be easier to implant new ideas at a deep level, or change existing patterns of
behaviour or ways in which one sees the world. Some people refer to this as
'autosuggestion' implying parallels with hypnotism. I prefer the word
'metaprogramming', where the implication is that one is making changes to the main
'code routines'. This is a slightly tongue-in-cheek computer programming
metaphor -but then I am a programmer, after all. Meditation can help you
relax. I believe it can help you heal faster after an injury (although there isn't
any hard research there to prove or disprove that, yet, unfortunately). By helping
bodymind to get back to it's own way of optimum functioning, without obstruction,
there are benefits to one's overall state of health.
One Last Word
Finally, I'd just like to say that in my humble opinion one should be very careful
about trying too hard to 'somewhere else'. Most of the time, meditation should help
us function better in the world, since incarnation has it's own awe and wonder,
and the world is fantastically rich, diverse, scary and beautiful. Sometimes,
through naivety, or ego, or lack of respect for Gaia you may be tempted to think your
practise is the bees' knees precisely because it takes you 'somewhere else'.
Please be careful of this. Some practises (shamanistic, kabbalistic, for instance)
may have the potential to take you to some 'strange' places. I wouldn't say 'don't
do them' but I would say just bear in mind (for instance) that traditionally teachers
of kabbala were generally quite unwilling to take on pupils who had not already had
extensive experience of normal everyday life, generally including marriage, children,
careers and so on. Such life experiences tend to impart a certain stability of mind.
Similarly, true shamanistic practioners may have spent years learning their 'craft'
(generally from an older, more experienced shaman).
'let there be beauty and strength, honour and pride,
power and compassion, mirth and reverence within you.
And you who think to seek for me-
know that your seeking and yearning
will avail you nought, unless you know the Mystery:
that if that which you seek you find not within you,
you shall never find it without'.