Given the central role that meditation has in self-transformation we felt the need to offer more detail in support of those of us who are ready to begin or continue an authentic and proven transformation practice. Hand-in-hand with The Point of Power Practice meditation can effect a profound change in our narrative, our identity and our behavior.
Silence is the mantra of the universe.
Roy Charles Henry
A conventional definition of a mantra would be: “A sacred formula believed to embody the divinity invoked and to possess magical power, used in prayer, meditation and incantation.” We can recognize this as an expression of P-B consciousness. We do not need to invoke the divine, we are the divine. We need to employ a practice that awakens the awareness of our Oneness with all of Creation and reveals our natural state of being, Simple Reality. The right meditation practice can reveal that natural state.
“On his journey toward enlightenment, the Buddha saw that human existence is characterized by three qualities: impermanence, suffering and selflessness. He discovered that we suffer because we try to make ourselves solid and permanent, while our fundamental state of being is unconditionally open and changing. The Buddha encouraged others to discover this open state of being for themselves in the process of sitting meditation.”
“A Tibetan word for meditation is gom—“familiarity.” When we meditate, we’re becoming familiar with something. In shamatha meditation we first become familiar with a technique: to recognize and release thoughts and emotions and return our attention to the breath. Over time we become familiar with the open state of being that the Buddha called selflessness. As we learn to abide peacefully, we also become familiar with what I call a healthy sense of self. Like the Buddha, we become strong, caring, clear-minded individuals in harmony with ourselves and our environment. The meditation posture itself embodies this healthiness: grounded, balanced and relaxed.”
The principles of meditation as taught by Buddha 2,500 years ago and reiterated in the context of Simple Reality have remained consistently the same over time, as emphasized by the modern Buddhist teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
Elizabeth Lesser broadens the definition of meditation and its purpose. “Meditation is a matter of experience. It is not a set of moral values. It is not a definition of the sacred. It is a way—a way to be fully present, a way to be genuinely who you are, a way to look deeply at the nature of things, a way to discover the peace you already possess. It does not aim to get rid of anything bad, nor to create anything good. It is an attitude of openness. The term for this attitude is mindfulness.” (Note: mindfulness is often used as a synonym for meditation.)
Meditation is nothing more than concentrating on what is happening in the present moment without trying to avoid the experience. Metaphorical religious descriptions can obscure the simplicity of the process as well as the desired outcome. All we are advocating in Simple Reality is to choose response over reaction, again and again, as our life itself becomes a meditation or a focused effort to “stop” choosing physical, mental and emotional self-imposed suffering.
The 16th century Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross exemplifies the language of the religious narrative related to meditation or contemplation as it is often called in the context of Christianity. “Since we are here giving instructions to those who would progress further in contemplation, even to union with God, to which all these means and exercises of sense concerning the faculties must recede into the background, and be put to silence, to the end that God may of His own accord work Divine union in the soul, it is necessary to proceed by this method of disencumbering and emptying the soul, and causing it to reject the natural jurisdiction and operations of the faculties, so that they may become capable of infusion and illumination from supernatural forces.” Today we could say that we are using The Point of Power Practice to remain present and avoid reaction.
St. John of the Cross speaks of the “dark night of the soul” by which he means the reaction of the false self. Meditation or employing The Point of Power Practice will challenge the false self and it will react—this is the darkness or resistance or suffering of which St. John speaks. By responding to our life’s experience we deny the false self its identity and the reactions associated with the mind, body and emotions. And finally, in the words of St. John who is describing the goal of experiencing the reality of Oneness: “The third has to do with the point to which it [the True self] travels—namely, God, Who equally is dark night to the soul in this life.” We include the descriptions by religious mystics for perspective and authentication and to offer contrast to the much clearer and simpler language of Simple Reality.
If I had six hours to chop down a tree,
I would spend the first four hours sharpening the ax.
Meditation is the tool, the ax if you will, with which we will fell the tree of unconsciousness. We sharpen that ax by following the breath as long as it takes to make it sharp. We know it is sharp when we find ourselves becoming the observer to our own behavior. The tool of meditation is wielded to cut our identification with our body, mind and emotions. It is worth the time to ensure that we have an effective tool before we begin something as important as the paradigm shift.
When the mind is quiet,
we come to know ourselves as the pure witness.
The first stage of meditation for the beginner is a form of response, paying attention without reacting to sensations in the body, mind and emotions. The essence of mindfulness is simply observing what is happening as it is experienced by the five senses. Returning to the breath as the object of our concentration keeps us from losing sight of our goal and spinning off into reaction rather than being the observer of our experience. The breath keeps us connected to the True self thus returning us again and again to Simple Reality and our identity as the observer of, not the helpless victim of, our experience.
Gerald Heard emphasizes the goal of not reacting to the conditioning of the false self triggered by our senses when he defined meditation as “the discipline that leads to the experience of transcending the 5 senses and on to detachment from our human conditioning and finally to equanimity. The trained (for that is the real meaning of the word translated in the New Testament as “the meek”) inherit the earth.”
“Feelings [emotions] are processed by keeping them in consciousness without resistance, experiencing them fully, witnessing them, without acting on them. The natural flow of energy, of feelings, is permitted to occur. If feelings are avoided or resisted, they are suppressed. By simply staying in the moment with feelings, allowing them to be for as long as necessary, the emotional charge is dissolved.” In Simple Reality we use the word emotions for the same reaction that John Ruskan calls feelings.
The key insight we will experience at this point is that our identity is pure energy in the context of Oneness. The first experience we have that is not a part of the P-B illusion is that we are the observer apart from the phenomena of the story in the mind, bodily sensations and emotional reactions. The first intuitive insight is that this observer is not the false self, which is the basis of our P-B identity; not the ego, not a conventional “personality,” not an “I” or “me.” Instead, we begin to “feel” that our essence is indeed the “not self” that Buddha discovered.
“In a sense, the individual [is] able to let go of his individual concerns and view them with a creative detachment and indifference, realizing that whatever problems his personal self faces, his deep self can transcend. He would find, haltingly at first but then with an ever increasing certainty, a profound center of awareness that persists unperturbed, like the depths of the ocean, even though the surface waves of consciousness be swept with ripples of pain, anxiety or despair.”
Secondly, noticing how the phenomena of sensations continually come and go, we realize how ephemeral, how impermanent they are. Recognizing and experiencing the emotions associated with these phenomena, the realization begins to emerge that identifying with the body, mind and emotions (accepting the experience of sensations as reality) is ultimately dissatisfying.
Finally, in a process of synthesis, we come to comprehend the source of our suffering and dissatisfaction. Identification with a personal, non-existent self and the fleeting impermanent illusions of our senses results in habits that are ultimately self-destructive and energized by fear. Becoming self-reliant, armed with meditation and further supplemented with The Point of Power Practice we transcend the delusional experience of life in P-B and liberate ourselves each time we choose response over reaction.
It is instructive at this point to make the distinction between insight and concentration meditation. Concentration meditation involves a lot of effort in suppressing afflictive emotional reactions into the shadow where they can arise again spontaneously. Behaviors associated with security, sensation and power, the energy centers of the false self, remain to create craving and aversion. Insight meditation is a process of patient observation, not an act of willpower. As John Ruskan points out: “The [observer] capacity brings about a nonidentification with painful feelings, making them more easily integrated and released.”
Integration and release is good but the goal of meditation is to be able to respond to life as it is not to necessarily eliminate all the false-self conditioning. By not reacting we are “seeing things as they are, without trying to change them. The point is to dissolve our reactions to disturbing emotions, being careful not to reject the emotion itself. Mindfulness can change how we relate to, and perceive, our emotional states; it doesn’t necessarily eliminate them.”
Why as meditators do we have to sit through our physical pain without moving, our emotional reactions and our agonizing mental monkey-mind narratives choosing not to react to our body, emotions and mind? What’s the purpose? Some psychoanalysts, like Rollo May have at least an inkling of why in an analogy to therapy. “Part of the sense of timing in therapy, which has received special development among the existential therapists, consists of letting the patient experience what he or she is doing until the experience really grasps him or her. Then and only then will an explanation of why help.”
Sometimes, the insights of Easterners and Westerners converge. When Buddha was asked the purpose of meditation he answered: “To experience the nature of Reality.” When psychotherapist Rollo May was describing the purpose of therapy he wrote: “Therapy is concerned with something fundamental—namely, helping the person experience his existence.”
The reason Simple Reality sequences worldview and identity before practice (behavior) as a model of the deep structure of human consciousness is that we must first learn where we are before experiencing who we are. “Though the rewards of meditation can be great, they do not come without disciplined self-knowledge.”
Attempts to assume a new identity motivated by a religious worldview or by human will alone or to modify the conditioning of the false-self survival strategy before a paradigm shift occurs, almost always results in a failure to attain authentic and profound changes in human consciousness. How then do we come to express a life honoring compassionate behavior and the morality of precepts?
First, as we have already heard (and cannot hear too often) we practice meditation to experience our true nature which is not identified with body, mind or emotions. Secondly, we experience our new identity as the observer of what’s happening and the intuitive shift to the worldview of Oneness. Then comes the natural expression of compassion and the resultant changes in behavior where The Point of Power Practice supports the reconditioning of our reactions. Finally, the religious precepts (e.g. Christianity’s Ten Commandments) are naturally adhered to because they are sensible human behavior, the only behavior that “feels” right, the only behavior that is sustainable and in harmony with our steady attainment of increased happiness, peace of mind, joy and freedom.
Speaking of practices similar to The Point of Power Practice, Thomas Merton advocates living one’s life as a meditation because it “enabled the old superficial self to be purged away and permitted the gradual emergence of the true self.” We also have St. Isaac commenting “that one who has attained a state of effortless, constant prayer has reached the summit of all virtues, and has become the abode of the Holy Spirit [True self].”
One of the most controversial principles of Simple Reality has to do with precepts. These rules imposing a particular code of conduct are found in religions, e.g. the Ten Commandments, and as pre-conditions for a successful practice such as meditation, e.g. the Eightfold Path. “They range from the emphatic insistence on purification as a prelude to meditation voiced in the Bhakti [Hindu], Kabbalist [Jewish mysticism], Christian, and Sufi [Muslim mysticism] traditions.”
Because the sequence of the precept and or other methods of purification and the practice are reversed in these situations, precepts become a barrier to transformation and transcendence. It is the practice that leads to a new identity and the new identity that leads to the ultimate goal of compassion. We must find the courage to take responsibility for modifying our self-destructive, reactive behavior moment by moment, day by day. Other approaches to behavior modification will prove futile and in the opinion of such teachers as Gurdjieff and Krishnamurti “are pointless if they entail avoiding normal life situations.”
All words are like an unnecessary stain
on silence and nothingness.
Continuing with the observation of the process of meditation and its benefits from a number of different sources we must bear in mind that we are describing an experience that is ultimately beyond the reach of words. Nevertheless, acting like guideposts to our final destination, words can give encouragement.
As spring overcomes the cold,
And autumn overcomes the heat,
So calm and quiet overcome the world.
Tao te Ching
Transcendence is another word that represents “overcoming” the world. “But it is much more radically true of human existence, where the capacity for self-awareness qualitatively increases the range of consciousness and, therefore, greatly enlarges the range of possibilities of transcending the immediate situation.”
And yet another way to describe the benefits of meditation is that it results in the creation of consciousness. “The capacity to transcend the situation is an inseparable part of self-awareness, for it is obvious that the mere awareness of oneself as a being in the world implies the capacity to stand outside and look at oneself and the situation and to assess and guide oneself by an infinite variety of possibilities.”
“Mindfulness training has even been shown to affect the brain’s default network—the network of connections that remains active when we are in a so-called resting state—with regular meditators exhibiting increased resting-state functional connectivity and increased connectivity in general. After a dose of mindfulness, the default network has greater consistent access to information about our internal states and an enhanced ability to monitor the surrounding environment.”
The Point of Power Practice is used continuously when our moment-to-moment experience of life becomes a meditation and gradually reduces the ratio of reaction to response. Reaction provides the energy which fuels the false self so the fires of fear, greed, addictive sensations and lust for power cool, subside and eventually die out. “The word “nirvana” derives from the negative prefix “nir” and the root “vana,” to burn, a metaphorical expression for the extinction of motives for becoming. In nirvana [Simple Reality], desire, attachment, and self-interest are burned out.”
Initially, the gains of meditation may be modest but nevertheless rewarding. Gerald Heard cautions us to be realistic and gentle with ourselves. “Fears and involuntary impulses remain, slips and snatches of greed, self-praise, complacency and resentment, bad tricks of the still largely autonomous tongue, mean and wretched thoughts. But deliberate and calculated greed and ill-will, these should be gone.” Even at that, imagine a world in which both greed and ill-will are gradually vanishing.
The synthesis of the mystical teachings of both the East and the West show that they have a common experience of the profound truth underlying Simple Reality. The purpose of meditation is to learn to experience the highest human attainment possible. The teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh as told by Sister Dang Nghiem corroborate this coming together of East and West. “There is indeed a place like that, called the Pure Land of the Present Moment. That land is not limited in space or time. Speaking in terminology of quantum physics, it is nonlocal and non-temporal. Anyone who carries the passport of mindfulness, concentration, and insight can enter that land.”
In meditation as in life itself, we can deepen our understanding and experience of compassion. The identification with mind, body and emotion can cause suffering during meditation as it does in our experience of life when we are not engaged in formal meditation which is why it is important not to separate one from another. As our life becomes a meditation they flow together and we see compassion grow within us. “If there were no suffering, then how could we understand our own suffering and the suffering of others in order to accept and truly love them?”
Ancient insights from the Bhagavad Gita affirm that humankind’s natural inner wisdom revealed the efficacy of meditation long ago. “This man of harmony surrenders the regard of his work and thus attains final peace: the man of disharmony, urged by desire, is attached to his reward and remains in bondage.” Gita, 5:12 The Gita did not shy away from what might seem to our modern sensibility, radical insights into the benefits of “cooling” the fires of the false self. “Freedom from the chains of attachments, even from a selfish attachment to one’s children, wife, or home; [result in] an ever-present evenness of mind in pleasant or unpleasant events.” Gita, 13: 9
What did the ancient Hindu “seers” mean by freedom attained by a disciplined and insightful meditation? “Developing the witness or inner observer—the capacity to be mindful—allows one to stand back from the fleeting drama of everyday thoughts, emotions, and events and view them with more detachment and equanimity. We are dominated by everything with which our self becomes identified. We can dominate and control everything from which we dis-identify ourselves.”
By practicing response day in and day out we become ever more familiar with our natural state and with the feeling that accompanies it. “This point of arrival, we realize, is our original point of departure.” Piero Ferrucci continues. “It is not an artificially contrived concept; rather it is our innermost ‘I,’ the Self which we have always been. In finding it we experience relief; we feel centered. It is a beautiful discovery to which we can frequently return. Who would have thought it could all be so simple?” Who Indeed?
Meditation is the means by which we come to the realization of the Great Insight or to the realization of Oneness. Increased compassion is the inevitable result. “‘As we move on to relationships wider than the encounter between two individuals,’ says Dr. Ferucci, ‘love takes on new richness and meaning. Beyond the great variety of its forms, love can be seen as the realization of oneness. At an emotional level this realization eradicates self-preoccupation and engenders extraordinarily intense feelings of care, affection, and warmth for all beings. Intellectually, it generates insight into the simplicity underlying the apparent diversity of the universe. Spiritually, it reveals imperishable unity with a greater whole.’”
The fruits of meditation combined with The Point of Power Practice can be described many ways. Here Dr. Ferrucci relates what the Islamic poet Rumi had to say. “Love is the creative essence of the universe. Through love, thorns are turned to roses, sickness is transformed into health, and anger softens into gentleness; good fortune is seen in the bad, and the ugliest prison becomes a rose garden.”
Meditation was my escape into reality.
When we say that using The Point of Power Practice empowers our life to become a meditation or a continuous response then we find our self in agreement with J. Krishnamurti who said “Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.”
A profound meditation practice has both a healing and an integrative function that is simultaneous to its transcendence function. A healthy and aware personality has the resources for self-transcendence. “Jung wrote that the hidden self was like a shadow, and that without the shadow a person was only half himself. Many decades later, Fritz Perls, father of gestalt psychology, reinforced this notion by stressing the importance of assimilation to personality development.”
Insight meditation is utilized specifically to cease our identification with our body. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj focuses on key realizations. “Don’t you see that all your problems are your body’s problems—food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, name, fame, security—all these lose their meaning the moment you realize that you may not be a mere body.” In attaining the awareness of being the observer of body, mind and emotions during meditation we are liberated from our old, illusory identity. “The very act of perceiving shows that you are not what you perceive.”
The context of Oneness, shifting from P-B to P-A, is a pre-requisite to maximum success in our meditation practice. “Whatever vice or weakness in ourselves [conditioned reaction] we discover and understand its causes and its workings, we overcome by the very knowing; the unconscious dissolves when brought into consciousness.”
Samatha is the Pali word for the most common type of meditation practiced in the world today and it means “concentration” or “tranquility.” As the name implies, the goal is not transformation but coping more effectively within P-B. Using meditation to avoid or mitigate the suffering which occurs in the form of our reactions is avoiding the ultimate challenge which is to transcend P-B by attaining the ability to respond to our experience using The Point of Power Practice.
S. N. Goenka affirms the limitations of Samatha meditation. “[The] solution works only at the conscious level. In fact, by diverting the attention you push negativity deep into the unconscious, and there you continue to generate and multiply the same defilement. On the surface there is a layer of peace and harmony, but in the depths of the mind there is a sleeping volcano of suppressed negativity which sooner or later may erupt in a violent explosion.”
Goenka learned through experience that Vipassana or Insight meditation is effective at making structural changes in consciousness and thereby reducing reactionary suffering and eliminating its sources. “Whenever negativity [a reaction] arises in the mind, just observe it, face it. As soon as you start to observe a mental impurity [without reacting], it begins to lose its strength and slowly withers away. A solution; it avoids both extremes—suppression and expression.”
Since transformation and transcendence are the logical goals of meditation, Vipassasana, or “insight” meditation, is the more effective practice. Insight refers to the attainment of “right view” or seeing Reality as it really is. This is the equivalent of a paradigm shift from that of duality (P-B) to Oneness (P-A).
Examining in more detail how concentrating on the breath and observing with increased detachment the reactions of the body, mind and emotions, we see how our entire life can become a meditation. “By learning to remain balanced in the face of everything experienced inside, one develops detachment towards all that one encounters in external situations as well.”
S. N. Goenka learned Vipassana meditation from his teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin in Burma. This technique represents a tradition that can be traced back to Buddha. After fourteen years of practice with his teacher, Goenka began teaching Vipassana in 1969 in both the East and the West. “Observing reality as it is by observing the truth inside—this is knowing oneself directly and experientially. From the gross, external apparent truth, one penetrates to the ultimate truth of mind and matter. Then one transcends that, and experiences a truth which is beyond mind and matter, beyond time and space, beyond the conditioned field of relativity; the truth of total liberation from all suffering. This is the culmination of the teaching of the Buddha: self-purification by self-observation.”
That which is profound is simple. Insight meditation, therefore, is simple. It is also the nature of the human intellect to obscure the principles of Simple Reality so that the false self can retain the illusion of control and thereby mitigate the existential anxiety that characterizes our life in P-B. Let’s review those simple principles once again. Life in P-B is unsatisfactory and suffering is universal thanks to our futile pursuit of wealth, pleasure and power. We also suffer trying to avoid that which is unpleasant. This craving and aversion is our deeply conditioned behavior and virtually our entire life is made up of these automatic and unconscious reactions.
In meditation we experience and gradually become aware of these conditioned behaviors. The wisdom of our True self begins to emerge. Our self-destructive habits, the behavior patterns inherited from the collective unconscious, and “Freudian slips” from the repressed contents of our unconscious “shadow” are all exposed in the light of the increased awareness gained during meditation. This awareness gained in our sitting meditation is taken into our daily life by means of The Point of Power Practice as we choose response instead of reaction. In the new paradigm of Simple Reality we have gained true freedom, real security, authentic power and a satisfactory life filled with joy.
Calmness of mind does not mean you should
stop your activity.
Real calmness should be found in activity itself.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh ushers us toward the conclusion of this article. “I am not saying meditation will solve life problems. I am simply saying that if you are in a meditative state [not reacting, hence in the present moment], problems will disappear—not be solved. There is no need to solve a problem. In the first place the problem is created by a tense mind [by a reaction].”
The human community benefits as more practitioners make their lives a continuous meditation because human behavior is radically modified. With a new identity derived from a new worldview, bolstered by an effective weapon against the conditioned behaviors of the false self, compassion becomes a natural response in all relationships.
How do we know that our practice is transformational? We experience less pain, less anger, less self-involvement, less resistance and less fear along with more joy, more trust, more clarity, more equanimity, more understanding, more energy, more peace, more calmness, better health, more awareness, more service, heightened morality, more surrender and greater acceptance of life. What would we all be willing to do to attain these considerable benefits in our life? Surely we would at least be willing to try a simple and proven practice advocated by teachers, mystics, saints, poets, psychiatrists the world over for thousands of years?
References and notes are available for this article.
Also find a much more in-depth discussion of Simple Reality
on this blog and in published books by Roy Charles Henry.