Open and Vast Awareness [The Simplicity of Meditation]
I have been reading an inspirational book this week, described as "… a rarity in spiritual literature [that] directly infuses our own transformational journey with fresh meaning, luminosity and life." (Tara Brach) It has also been described as "… moving and inspiring, profound and utterly human …" (Jack Kornfield)
The book is a helpful and detailed description of how to use meditation in everyday situations in life. Meditation is described in clear and powerful terms by a man who has spent his entire life meditating. The book is 'In Love With The World' by the Tibetan Buddhist Monk, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.
In talking about meditation he says,
Most beginners start with the idea that meditation is supposed to be peaceful. If they feel peaceful, they conclude that they are doing things right. Soon enough a disturbing thought or emotion erupts, and this is identified as a problem. We do not like disturbances.
He talks about the waves of disturbance that get in the way of the meditators desire for "smooth ocean waters with no waves." They get in the way of the ability to meditate. It seems impossible to stop them coming.
We can relate to these waves as threatening monsters and try to push them away. We can apply certain mental techniques to subdue them; or we can pretend not to notice them or try to deny their presence.
Whatever is done, the waves are still felt as a threat in the heart. He calls this the "first stage of working with the mind."
The Second Stage
The next stage he calls "resting the mind in the spacious, nonconceptual aspect of mind that transcends the limited self." This where the meditator starts to see glimpses of the "boundless expanse of water beneath the surface." The perspective enlarges beyond the focus on the waves. The mind opens up to encompass "the vast, impersonal experience of reality" that already exists in the mind. Understanding moves from the intellectual to the experiential. Recognition of the "spacious empty mind" starts to take over from consideration of the disturbance by the waves.
The wave is there, but now it is just a tiny movement in the vastness of the ocean. But at this point, we still get stuck on the surface with the waves, and lose touch with the ocean beneath.
The Third Stage
In the third stage the mind moves beyond the wave and rests in the ocean beneath. The ocean moves but does not bother us any more.
But now we have become so familiar with the full expanse of the ocean that even the biggest waves no longer bother us. This is how we can now experience our thoughts and emotions—even those we have spent our lives trying to be free of.
This is meditation that sees beyond the waves of disturbance in the mind into the vastness of the ocean that they sit on the surface of. Diving underneath the waves takes you into what seems like stillness. The thoughts and emotions are still there but the mind itself starts to still and move into the vast, open space of awareness.
Invitation to Freedom
The process outlined by Rinpoche reminds me of the 'Invitation to Freedom' process by Mooji. He outlines a simple way to access the vastness of the awareness that underlies the mind. It is less detailed and seems deceptively simple, but it is powerful nevertheless. It requires leaving the waves behind so you can dive straight into the ocean.
In his small book 'Invitation to Freedom' Mooji says,
Many seekers believe that awakening will happen only after a long journey of spiritual study and practice. Here, we begin at the end, so that you cannot deny or doubt the obviousness and naturalness of absolute Being.
As you follow the Invitation earnestly, you will recognise that what you are discovering is deeply familiar to you, for what we are searching for is already what we are—the ever perfect, impersonal awareness.
Mooji addresses those that are seeking to be free and alive through self-discovery. The process he outlines is available at any moment for anyone. In entering the process he invites people to leave their mind outside. That means leaving aside your thoughts and prejudices, leaving the past and the future and even setting aside concerns in the present moment. In addition it is important to let go of any desire or any aim for the process.
The Personal Self
This means leaving the personal self outside, just for the time being. You will pick it up again afterwards, but things will not be the same. The process is not about seeking enlightenment or, indeed, anything else.
You are now inside the heart as the heart itself.
Simply rest in and as what remains by itself. This is your natural state.
In this unbound space, recognise that you are not ‘holding yourself together’. Each thought, feeling and sensation is like a cloud passing. You are like the sky: vast and unchanging.
Notice the limitless space of formless awareness, just the sense of Is-ness—natural, silent and empty. It is nothing in particular. It is just What Is. ‘What was’ and ‘what could be’ have floated by. Nothing sticks.
The process then proceeds through addressing simple questions about the awareness you are in, questions that lead you to accept the limitless spaciousness of where you are.
This is the vast ocean of awareness that requires no effort or desire, it just is. This awareness is available to all through simply abiding in yourself and feeling beyond the chaos of the mind and the self. Once you experience it the first time it is always there for you, simple, plain, unadorned, it just is.
There are many ways of meditation taught to enable the experience of this vastness inside, a vastness we all possess.
It is our nature, it is our true self.