Thursday, December 22, 2011

the longest night of the year

Today is Dec. 21, 2011, and it is the longest night of the year. Its technical term is, the Winter Solstice, and in meteorological parlance it marks the beginning of Winter. The Winter Solstice, along with the Spring Equinox, the Summer Solstice, and the Autumnal Equinox are related to our Earth's 365 day, course around the Sun, and the affected, play of light and dark as it relates to earth's 23.6 degree inclination. This cosmic phenomena equates also to our four seasons, and to the four quadrants of earth, North, East, South, West. Through out antiquity humans have recognized the cyclical movement of the four quadrants, and have aligned its movement to their lives. For instance, the American Indians believed that each quadrant was associated with unique powers: the North, with endurance and strength, the East, with renewal and growth, the South, with potency and flourishing, the West, with harvesting and completion. When the tribe or band would embark on new initiatives or personal endeavors they would first invoke the blessing of the four quadrants. They stand facing to the North entreating its blessing, then to the East entreating its blessing, then to the South, entreating its blessing, then to the West entreating its blessing.

Many of us believe the above rituals and similar, are based on superstition rather than solid, scientific facts. After this calculation we have a nice niche to fit all similar rituals on, superstition. Listen to what William Wordsworth says about our lack of awareness to the workings of Nature:

"The world is too much with us, late an soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not"...

More accurately, I believe, the cause for our unawareness is ignorance and fear, that a deeper look into Nature would disturb our self imposed order. It is a sickness of soul-a soul left derelict while experience, feelings, things are neatly colored, fit and formed together; a safe grid were everything is fixed.

Nature points with crawl, with bleat, with eccentricity, to the essence of things. In Her the whole of life is reflected. Therefore, jump into the River of Nature; join it as you would your mother and father; lay back and enjoy the ride home.

My wish is that you have a wonderful holiday and that the new light of the Winter Solstice brings you good fortune.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

meditation-a discipline of mind

The idea of meditation and its practice has nestled within the confines of our culture for decades. Generally, it congers up for us visions made popular by T.V. and the movies, of priests or monks cloistered in some remote place, either chanting or quietly absorbed in prayer or a practitioner of one of the marshal arts preparing for mortal combat or some "spaced out new ager" sitting in a crossed legged position contemplating his navel. Beyond those popular images, however, we have not as yet found a fitting cultural niche in which to place the practice of meditation. The problem is that we have no tradition, no established philosophy of mind, aside for the Science of Psychology whose aim is mainly to study the functions of the physical brain. Therefore, anyone who is searching for a comprehensive understanding of mind must barrow the understanding and practices from the cultural traditions of mind, established over many centuries, from the Orient and from India. These barrowed philosophies of mind are very difficult for us to quickly and neatly integrate, adapt, and transpose into practices, mainly because our culture has no relative content or language for them, and our dominant Christian doctrines consider these philosophies as heretical. Yet, as remote as these mind concepts seem from our everyday experiences, we are beginning to awaken to the relevance of meditation practice within our spiritual, mental, and physical lives.

The strongest motivation for this relevance comes from a desperate desire to neutralize the stress and anxiety created in our daily lives. People are desperately seeking practices, methods, or techniques that may relieve their stress and bring peace of mind. The problem is that the search for peace is usually confined to the outside, trying to find the right pill, medical techniques, psychological therapy, etc. The more we search for cures from the outside and the more our attempts fail, the greater our stress, anxiety, insecurity, and confusion become. We are trying to relieve spiritual symptoms with physical practices, an exercise in futility and great frustration. Life's enduring fulfillments lie within us, and the practice of meditation puts us in touch with that infinite world within. The practice of meditation begins to discipline our mind and gradually abates those 1000 voices in our mind speaking to us all at once.

Our mind is always on, twenty-four, seven. The master's of the mind's world tell us that there are more then 84,000 points or centers of entry for streams of thought-atoms coming from innumerable terrestrial and cosmic sources. Our minds are continuously filled with these thought forms, whether we are awake or asleep. Our own experience of the working of our mind tells us that there are distinct patterns associated with the receiving of these thought-forms, ranging from very slow and clear to very rapid and diluted, and every thing in between. Science confirms our intuition. It has studied the electrical impulses generate by the human brain through an instrument called an electroencephalograph and has grouped and labeled common brain wave rhythms. It has also, to some extent, related these brain rhythms to different states of consciousness. Brain waves rhythms have been grouped into four major categories: alpha, beta, theda, and delta. These rhythms are measured in cycles per second (cps). It is generally agreed that about fourteen cps and higher are known as beta waves, about seven to fourteen cps are called alpha, four to seven theta, and finally, four and below called delta.

The mind pattern that we are the most involved with is the beta wave. Under the influence of the beta wave our thoughts are scattered, disconnected, and come and go at great speed with infrequent pauses. There is a Toltec word, mitote, (mih-toe-tay) that describes this kind of mind chaos, as having 1000 people talking at the same time, and nobody understanding the other. The Zen Masters, call this speedy, beta mind, "monkey mind." Through our ignorance we become so thoroughly attached and familiar with this beta pattern of thinking that we even aspire to it and swell up with pride as we proclaim, "I am an excellent multitasker." In truth, our customary speedy mind acts to disperse our attention, our energy, and our desires in a multitude of directions, while depriving us of a chance to experience the true nature our mind.

Beyond our monkey mind and its limitless capacity of self-seeking, schemes, and attainments, dwells our natural mind, our original mind. Our natural mind is a comprehensive unity, an integration of all organic and inorganic forms, thoughts forms and material forms rolled into one unifying perception. (To get a better gasp of what I mean, think of the right/side and the left/side of the human brain, and their unique and different expressions. Also read my 2011, blog called, "you are the face of god" for more help in understanding what I mean.) The practice of meditation allows you to train your mind to know and directly experience the true nature and essence of your mind, and it will also expose the existence of dimensions far beyond the feverish, daily pitch of your monkey mind. The practice of meditation then acts as a bridge between your monkey mind of self-seeking and the higher mind of self-forgetting. The inner knowledge of mind will fill you with an unbending security, inspire you with wisdom beyond the reach of mere intellect, and release within you the capacity to act calmly and compassionately.

Meditation, generally defined then, is a practice that trains the mind to focus deeply and continuously on any single idea or object you might select. Under this general definition, if you were walking in a garden, single-mindedly admiring and sensing the beauty of the flowers, you would be meditating; if you were single-mindedly writing a poem or prose, you would be meditating, etc. It therefore seems obvious that the ability to meditate is not a DNA, mental predisposition, but is part of the innate capabilities of all human beings. The human mind works on the same principles for all, and the ability to train the mind through meditation is a jewel within the vastness and complexities of the mind's field of operation.

The practice of meditation, considering it from only an operative sense, should be thought of
as a discipline. In other words, it is the training of attention, with the aim of mastering the thinking process. Here we have our usual monkey mind, filled with fast flowing streams of mind forms, and here we also have our meditative practice, slowing down our speedy mind by the one-pointed focus of attention. Of all the disciplines related to human development, the discipline of meditation is the most effective, for it directs its discipline towards the seat of all behavior, the mind. Since thought is the initiator of all action, a discipline whose goal is the control of the thinking process would be directed at the point of greatest affectiveness. In addition, since thoughts initiate actions, and actions weave a destiny, meditation is the most powerful tool for affecting change in out lives. If you can discipline and control your own mind, you can control your own destiny. If you think the idea of thoughts causing your destiny is mere whimsy, then hear it from Gautama the Buddha, "All that we are is the result of what we have thought."

Even though the practice of meditation operates on the most effective level, progress does not occur readily. The first stages of meditation are tough, and beyond that it gets tougher. To give you an image of the difficulty of training your mind, here is how some masters of mind describe the practice, 'It is like lassoing the wind.' The person who dares to examine the nature of their own mind must take a long view of attaining the fruits of meditative practice, keeping in mind that anything that is worthwhile takes long, arduous effort, and cannot be reached by a single leap. Some of the fruits of meditation do come within the first few weeks of consistent practice. The aspirant will experience a sense of calmness, especially revealing itself under circumstances that previously produced great emotional reactions. It is those fruits that reach to the highest qualities of our mind that take the longest to attain. The attainment of the highest fruits of meditative practice, such as an unshakable, continuous calm, clear and peaceful mind is extremely difficult to achieve, but not out of the range and capacity for the average human being. What is needed for success is a mustering of the full attention of our mind and the full affection of our heart to become one-pointed in thought, and an unbending will to press ever upwards through the personalized veils of consciousness and feelings in order to reach our higher consciousness, our Higher Self. When success does come we can then say what Gautama the Buddha said, "I am the happiest of mortals. There is no one happier than I am."

Meditation should not be thought of as a practice that will bring the practitioner only, what the psychologist's term, peak experiences. That is, experiences of bliss, joy, expanded awareness, peace of mind or a feeling of a closer connection to God. Carrying this specific kind of expectation into the meditative practice turns the practice into a form of worship, were the worshiper whats only to experience positive effects. When the meditative experiences the destructive sides of Universal Nature, he or she may begin to doubt the correctness of his or her's practice, and may stop meditating. It should be remembered that meditation is not just an experience of peace and joy, but also a comprehensive experience including both the positive and negative aspects of life. The aim should be to see beyond any expectation, with the intent to integrate all experiences that may emerge, whether a peak experience or negative one.

The person who examines the nature of his or her mind by the practice of meditation, who purifies the negative energy of envy, anger, avarice, and fear, and who dedicates his or her's action for the benefit of all beings, follows the path of the gods.