What is meditation?

Meditation is a method of allowing the conscious mind to come to a state of stillness and effortlessness. Many of us have tried to learn this and found that at first, it is impossible to stop our mind from wandering here and there. In the beginning, the mind moves around, the body complains, our nose itches and we scratch it, or our back hurts and distracts us. Maybe there is too much noise from the traffic or someone sneezes or someone’s giggling or we keep getting interrupted by our children or our friends, or we keep going to sleep or there isn’t enough time because we have so much to do. The possible distractions are endless.

All these problems aren’t because of how our life is, or because of how we think – these problems are how we think. Usually we don’t notice how we think because we’re so busy doing things, but the moment we stop doing things and sit still, we get to see how difficult and noisy we are all the time. Many of us are either annoyed or despairing at seeing this and blame it on meditation, or blame ourselves. Once again, we’re just displaying how we think. It goes on and on.
The opinions we have about the noise, the interruptions, the giggling and about our opinions, are all just the normal opinions or products of our story mind. It’s how the movie in our mind works. Something grabs our attention for a split second, then we judge it, verbalise it and file it, so that we can return to it later in our movie. ‘I can’t meditate with all that noise! ’ ‘She should dress her age. ’ ‘Who would buy that car? ’ ‘What a bastard – how could he treat her like that ?’ ‘What a beautiful baby .’ ‘She’s so spiritual. ’ ‘I hate red .’ ‘I’m no good at meditation .’ ‘Wow, that meditation was amazing – I must be nearly enlightened !’ We have millions of opinions. Imagine what would happen to us if we stopped having all these opinions? If we stop our opinions for just a few breaths…right now…

Just notice the feeling of the breath in the nose and listen for the sound of it when we can’t hear it…this dynamic silence is the stillness that Hafiz talks about in his poetry. This is meditation. ‘To pour the divine into you, God needs you to be still. You don’t need to ask Hafiz anything else about your most important lesson.’ HafizIn the seventh century CE, Sosan, the third Patriach of Chan Buddhism (Zen) in China, wrote in his famous Book of Nothing, ‘Don’t try to get enlightened – just stop having opinions.

The first part of learning to meditate, is to learn to still the mind. This is the most vital requirement. The trick to doing this is in not taking any of our opinions seriously. This sounds strange. We think we know this or that. We definitely know that this thing is beautiful or correct and that this other thing is ugly or wrong. I had a friend many years ago who couldn’t believe that people liked listening to accapella jazz music. She was sure that they only played it to annoy her. According to her, ‘Nobody could like that stuff!’ She grew up only listening to pop radio and believed that all people really only loved pop music. She hadn’t been acquainted with opera, jazz, blues or classical music and was convinced that people only pretended to like all of these. This was really the view from her geography and her social demographic.
When we think about it, most, if not all of our opinions have more to do with geography, than with any well thought out reasoning, or inner qualification to know the truth. This is such a basic idea that it’s now taught in North American high schools as behavioural studies. Basically, this is understanding that our particular group’s cultural beliefs, influence our opinions and behavior without our being fully aware of it, and that we, as groups of people, exhibit different responses to the same stimuli due to these influences. For example, a western girl wearing a miniskirt probably won’t understand how or why Muslim girls can wear the burka in the heat of summer. Similarly, a Muslim girl from Jakarta might think the tourist girls from Sydney in their skimpy outfits are outrageous. If a boy is born in Australia, chances are he’ll follow cricket. If he comes from the USA he’ll probably think the game is bizarre. These are cultural opinions.

Opinions – what to do about them? We can’t just stop opinions with our mind or get rid of them by saying that opinions are bad. That’s just another opinion, another part of the story. Meditation has nothing to do with this story mind. Many years ago, I heard the Indian mystic Osho, answering a question. The question had something to do with theology and the man who asked it was at odds with his girlfriend over some obscure point. Osho just answered, ‘In any argument, the one who is the most serious is wrong.’ This is a very valuable teaching. If we are alive and possessing an ego, a sense of I-ness, then we will have opinions. But we don’t need to be attached to these opinions. Our I-ness always makes us think we’re special in a certain way. For some of us, this means we think that we can achieve anything – for others of us, it means we think so poorly of ourselves that we think we are incapable of achieving anything. Both views are just exhibiting an attachment to I-ness – so really they’re no different.
The idea of the popular book, The Secret, is that you can achieve anything. This idea is just based on everybody’s attachment to thinking that they’re special. This isn’t a secret. I-ness is nothing special really. All people, all animals and birds and all insects exhibit it. Plants probably have it. What’s so special about this really? The Hindu sages used to call this I-ness, ahamkara. It means I-ness and also means, the veil. This is because our sense of I-ness keeps us unaware of the real nature of ourselves. Unfortunately, this is the real secret. Behind our sense of I-ness is a pure awareness, the attention mind, that we share with everything. This is our true nature and it’s not based on achieving anything. Our pure awareness, our beingness, our serenity, moment to moment is all that really matters.

Practicing meditation is just a tool to help us to have insight into the achieving mind. Essentially there is no need for this, as it only requires direct insight, not sitting still. The Zen Master Bankei refused to let his students meditate for thirty years because he thought it just distracted them from being aware at all times. Eventually he relented and let them sit for thirty minutes every morning and night. Even Bankei reluctantly agreed that sitting still was of some benefit.
The key to meditation is not to be serious about it. Just go through the motions every day. Stop trying to sit still and don’t give your opinions about trying any attention. Just be aware that you’re trying and then let this go too. This doesn’t mean actively trying to ignore opinions or having any attitude towards them, after all, this would just be another opinion. When we can sit still, there is only stillness, we don’t have any opinions to take seriously. The trick to letting meditation happen is to let opinions melt away and stop meddling with our minds. The Taoist sage Lao Tzu said, ‘Should we meddle, then we are not equal to the task of winning the empire.’ Translated into our 21st century language, this means that if we try to meditate, we can’t succeed ~ because meditation happens when we are not trying. This doesn’t mean that we just sit down and let our thoughts and feelings overwhelm us. In the ancient Chinese meditation text, Secret of the Golden Flower, there is a line about meditation that translates as, ‘You can get it by effort that is not willful.’ We have to do something, but that something does not involve trying to do it. So where does the effort come in? At first, in watching our breath.

Our state of mind equilibrium, is similar to keeping a sailboat moored in a strong current. Just as we need to have an anchor for the boat, we need an anchor for the mind. In the beginning, the simplest thing to tie the mind to is the breath. If you think this is too simple, remember that this thought of yours is just another opinion and the Buddha did this practice every day – how bad can it be?

By Kevin Niv Farrow.

Kevin is the Founder and Director of AcuEnergetics® as well as a Master AcuEnergetics® Practitioner and Teacher of AcuEnergetics®. Kevin has practised and studied meditation and the energetic system since 1974. He has taught since 2000 and his published writings, meditation CD’s and teachings have brought him worldwide recognition as a unique and practical meditation teacher and an expert in the field of energy medicine. He currently teaches in Australia, USA, India, Asia and Europe. For more information about Kevin, visit Kevin’s full biography.