Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of April 11, 2011

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The Peace of Meditation

(The Path of Liberation: Part 3 of 9)

Within the endless cavalcade of thoughts and emotions streaming through us, we have no room to see these elements of our personality for what they are: disjointed, conflicting, unrelated, and automatically self-generated patterns and objects of awareness, whose aggregate does not form a coherent, independent self, but does form the pseudo-self of our personality. One automatic thought cannot see another thought, much less an emotion. Even when we are sensitive to the meaning of our thoughts, perhaps even exerting some control over our thoughts by pondering some issue, question, or problem, we are not aware thereby of the programmed, habitual nature of the bulk of our thoughts and emotions.

To see our thoughts as thoughts, as self-generating, automatic thoughts, to see our emotions as emotions, as self-generating, visceral responses and reactions to inner and outer events, we need some space, we need a place to see from, a place to gain some perspective on our inner world. That is one of the primary purposes and powers of meditation: to find the spacious inner peace of cognizant stillness, the true consciousness.

That peace affords us a taste of what it might mean to put down the burden our personality imposes on us, the burden of protecting and enhancing our self-image, of taking all our emotional upheavals so seriously, of being at the mercy of every passing whim or thought, of living a second-hand life lost in thought, of being this name of ours that claims to define us. Relaxing more and more deeply, in body, in mind, and in heart, can temporarily relieve of us of all that burden, the yoke of personality: we just sit and be, without having to be anything in particular, without being dragged along by our thoughts, emotions, and self-image.

Meditation shows us the possibility of living in awareness itself, rather than in thoughts and emotions, attitudes and reactions. Relaxing into awareness, into the cognizant substrate beneath our thoughts and emotions, takes us out of that busy stream. From pure awareness, we see our thoughts as just thoughts, our emotions as just emotions, our patterns as just our personality, and we see that none of that is who we are. We let all that come and go, arise and pass away, while we sit un-entangled.

But learning to attain that state takes time and a good deal of practice; it takes many sessions on our meditation cushion, bench, or chair. Gradually our mental chatter settles down enough for us to move behind it. We have moments of no thought, of quiet, glittering, blissful peace. With more meditation practice, we learn to enter that peace, that pure awareness, behind thoughts. And we find that the peace of consciousness is always there, but typically obscured from us by our thoughts and emotions, by our attention, our center falling out of that ever-present pure consciousness and into that ongoing mental stream. Continuing to practice meditation, we learn to enter the peace of consciousness even when there are thoughts. Like clouds passing in the sky, thoughts need not obscure our contact with consciousness. We become like the sky, we enter consciousness and the thoughts passing by neither obscure nor obstruct our peace and presence. So we need not and do not try to stop our thoughts, which would only give them more fuel, in any case. We just let them come and go as they will, without dragging us with them. And we rest in awareness itself.

The effects of meditation accumulate; over the years, it gradually builds up our fundamental consciousness, enabling us to go from living at the surface of awareness, in the stream of thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions, to living in the cognizant stillness within. This shifts us toward liberation from our personality, toward unburdening ourselves and the people around us from the yoke of our identification with our surface stream. If we are not to live in and as our personality, with all its drama, boredom and the rest, then we need an alternative, we need to live more and more in our depth, in the always-new consciousness, in the here and now. Thoughts, emotions, sensory perceptions, and our personality patterns are in time, passing through the here and now. The path calls us to live in the eternal depth of the here and now, not caught in time. We can still live effectively, even more effectively, in time, with respect for the past, realizable plans and hopes for the future, and appreciation of the present. We see our life in time as our field of action in the material world, but not as our only field of action. We live in depth and our inner actions also acquire significance.

For this week, reinvigorate your practice of meditation, of approaching inner stillness, and see whether it takes you toward freedom, toward unburdening yourself of yourself.


        

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