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Meditation Is Observation

How do we understand meditation? The word is used in a variety of ways and can signify different things. To explain what we mean by meditation, let's try some different words.

To put it simply, one can say that meditation is observation. So what happens when we observe? In observation, the mind has shifted from thinking to awareness. When thinking is predominant, attention is absorbed internally within a stream of thoughts. Thought is a limited, material construct—a representation of reality. In awareness, attention is open, covalent with a changing, unfixed reality—the breeze on the skin, the sunlight reflecting on concrete, the pen in the hand.

Observation, or awareness, is the release of thinking. Thought is mental effort, tension. For example, in the shift from thinking to observation, we can notice the muscular tension in the face relaxing. Observation is a relaxed alertness that requires no effort. We may ask, "How do we switch from thinking to awareness?" There is no method, such a question comes from thought itself. As does the question, "How can I maintain this awareness permanently?" Observation can't be produced by thought, it is present when thinking is released.

In her book, "The Work of This Moment," Toni Packer has some eloquent words on the subject:

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, not knowing what is next and not concerned with what was or what may be next, a new mind is operating that is not connected with the conditioned past and yet perceives and understands the whole mechanism of conditioning. It is the unmasking of the self that is nothing but masks—images, memories of past experiences, fears, hopes, and the ceaseless demand to be something or become somebody. This new mind that is no-mind is free of duality—there is no doer in it and nothing to be done.

The moment duality ceases, energy that has been tied up in conflict and division begins to function wholly, intelligently, caringly. The moment self-centeredness takes over the mind, energy is blocked and diverted in fearing and wanting; one is isolated in one's pleasures, pain, and sorrow. The moment this process is completely revealed in the light of impartial awareness, energy gathers and flows freely, undividedly, all-embracingly.

Awareness, insight, enlightenment, wholeness—whatever words one pay pick to label what cannot be caught in words—is not the effect of a cause. Activity does not destroy it and sitting does not create it. It isn't a product of anything—no technique, method, environment, tradition, posture, activity, or nonactivity can create it. It is there, uncreated, freely functioning in wisdom and love, when self-centered conditioning is clearly revealed in all its grossness and subtleness and defused in the light of understanding.

[The Work of This Moment, p.61.]

April 11, 2005 | Meditation | Permalink



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