No expert on meditation can tell you exactly what you will see inside of the process of your own meditation practice. They can share with you what it feels like for them, and that’s all. A good teacher of meditation encourages you to sit and practice and will not try to dominate your experience.
If I take on the role of the creator of your meditation experience and I tell you every detail of what to expect, then what you’ll be doing is replicating my experience. You’ll be watching a movie produced by me in your head. Something like that could still be beneficial and entertaining, but it’s not exactly the same thing as you experiencing meditation. In meditation, you want to see something in your mind discovered by you, not by me. It's beneficial to have a practice that’s uniquely yours that improves your ability to make your mind still.
It’s my purpose to share with you some of the things that I discover as I go along on my meditation journey. They’re not exactly the fixed landscape of a meditation. but they are the boundaries that surround the landscape of the meditations that I use to clear my mind.
An important thing in meditation is learning how to separate your consciousness into two main components—the thinker, and the observer of the thinker. The thinker is the entity in your head that’s always thinking obsessively from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. There’s not anything intrinsically wrong with that, but it’s necessary to slow it down in order to concentrate on the things worth thinking about.
The other entity in your head is the observer of the thinker. If you quiet your mind for a moment, observe yourself thinking and observe your own thoughts. Doing so will pose some interesting questions. Who is it that is observing the consciousness? Who is it that is thinking about where the thought came from? Who is it trying to elevate a thought from negative to positive? Who is it that feels unhappy about my thought pattern? What are the problems that I had when I was younger?
I was only able to function as the thinker for quite some time. I only lived in the thoughts, and I overidentified with them. I perceived that the thoughts were just me thinking. And then at one point I was able to separate from the thoughts and say, “Wait a minute. There’s somebody else in here, and I’m not crazy. I don’t have multiple personalities. I have variable layers of consciousness.”
The easiest level of consciousness to understand is the one that functions when you’re awake and you’re experiencing things. You’re looking at them and you’re making all kinds of judgments instantaneously. That person is very valuable. He determines the distance that I am from the door when I’m reaching to open it. He determines whether or not a substance that I’m going to place in my mouth is too hot, and then he commands the body to blow on it to cool it off.
My basic consciousness is the consciousness that determines that I’m attracted to a thing or person. Of course that consciousness is driven by a deeper consciousness from within. But for the purpose of understanding, it’s helpful to look at the consciousness as having these different levels, and the first level of consciousness is basic awareness.
The basic awareness is centered around the five senses. That basic awareness is governed by my experiences, my memories, my preferences, and the things that I like and dislike. That basic awareness is governed by my physical and psychological cravings. One could say that my basic consciousness really is like a very pure and simple animal. Beneath the surface of that basic awareness is a higher consciousness.
The higher consciousness has greater understanding. It sees the bigger picture. It recognizes all of the things in the lower consciousness, the ego, and the animal consciousness. But it also has a much closer connection to something much more vast than this body and my desires. It’s very difficult for me to ever communicate with that consciousness if I’m very busy, if I have a lot of problems, if things are troubling me, or if I’m engaged with obsessions.
So the main benefit of tapping into the higher consciousness is to be able to quiet the mind a bit and relax it. In that state of being, I can listen to the higher callings that I have inside. I can organize my thoughts better. I can soothe my own troubles, even if they originated in my mind in this state of consciousness. I’m shifting my focus. I’m trying to find a greater meaning in the things that come free—like a sunset, the love I have for the people I know, and the love that they have for me.
I’m trying to disengage from my ego, my struggles, and my striving. I’m trying to engage in things that are everlasting. I’m trying to tap into the child in me. That child just wants to play and wants to experience life instead of focusing on things and trying to solve problems.
When I am able to reach into my deeper consciousness I’m able to change my chemistry slightly. I’m able to feel happier in that moment. When I’m in touch with my higher consciousness, I can’t help but to cry a little bit from bliss. I can watch the sunset, stare at the ocean, or watch the seagulls while meditating by the shore. When I enter into my higher consciousness I have a better grasp of reality, not just a little piece that I choose to live in when I am in my ego consciousness.
Ego consciousness thinks about the shape of my body, the name brand on my sneakers, all the gadgetry, all the complexes that we have. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong in engaging in the world in this way as long as you keep a rope tied around your waist to pull you back into the higher consciousness in case you get stuck.
So far I’m using a lot of metaphors and abstractions. The idea is to just get you started on your meditation so that you can understand for yourself what it is that I mean. One thing is certain: If any part of you is self-loathing, it will be difficult for you to sit and meditate for the first time. That self-loathing creates anxiety. It's very hard for the consciousness to live in a body it doesn't like.
Should you just simply snap your fingers and love yourself tomorrow? It’s not that simple. When you begin meditation, you first need to clear your mind. The way I sit and meditate is to sit still somewhere tranquil and first check in with my body. I try to figure out how I feel. Am I agitated? Am I jumpy? Am I annoyed? Am I relaxed? Do I have a lot of projects going on? Do I have any pain in my body?
I ask myself these questions. The higher consciousness is asking the ego consciousness in the body what’s going on. The ego and the body are employees of the super consciousness. They have to show up for the meeting and they have to be held accountable. They have to report what they’re doing. They need to take direction and they need to be responsible for the overall being. Super consciousness is the CEO and the president of this corporation called my life. He is conducting the meeting. The boardroom is in M.I.N.D. (Management of Inner Need Disclosures).
No matter what I check on, my higher consciousness has to remind the ego and the body that we’re doing fine. The higher consciousness has to remind the body that all struggles are temporary. They only have a meeting for a short period of time, and then they go away. My higher consciousness has to remind my ego and my body that something bigger and greater is going on in the world, and that I’m connected to it and am making a positive contribution to it. My super consciousness has to remind my body and my ego that whatever I have been gifted with is great. This is a very, very big part of the maturity of the whole system of my mentality.
My super consciousness has taken away all abstractions of spirituality from the equation. I believe in divine creation, but I don’t think that there’s a difference between spirituality and materialism. I think they’re all interconnected, so I don’t separate them into individual things. Everything I do is a spiritual practice. Every spiritual practice has some foundation in the material world. If I’m trying to be more in touch with my spirituality then I have to use my mind, which is a physical thing. I have to take care of physical activities to create spiritual events, so it’s really all the same thing. In my meditation I’m trying to enable positive reinforcement for my ego and my body. Those two entities struggle the most in this organization.
Another thing that I try to do in the first part of my meditation is to determine the sources of any anxieties or worries that I may have. Perhaps it's the last day of the month and I’m thinking about all the payments that have to go out tomorrow. So I look at my bank account before I meditate and make sure that I’m OK.
There have been times in my life that I definitely was not OK, and so I had to have a practice of making myself feel better, even if I knew that I wasn’t going to have enough money to pay my bills. But by identifying the source of my anxiety, I could work to solve some real problems in my life. If I don’t have enough money to pay my bills and I identify that as a source of stress, that means that my survival instincts are working pretty good.
I don’t want to deny those survival instincts. I don’t want to pretend. So the solution that I might come up with is that I have to have a meeting with myself and figure out how to cut my expenses or earn more money. I don’t necessarily need to learn how to earn more money in my meditation practice. But I can get to the root of whatever my problems are by checking in. It’s the purpose of a different meeting to sit down and figure out the solutions to financial worries.
I might check in with my problems and find out that I’m worried about something that may have happened between my wife and I. I may feel resentment or I may feel hurt. Maybe I owe her an apology, and that may be weighing on my conscience.
(Don’t get confused by the different terms “conscious” and “conscience.” The word conscious is synonymous with having functional senses, with being cognizant of things. The conscience is associated with the ability to differentiate between right and wrong.)
If I check in with myself and find out in my thought process that I may have said something to hurt my wife, I then know what I have to do. I have to write down in my journal that I need to make an apology to my wife. In my journal I may write down exactly what that apology should sound like. I might compose an email to her and make it romantic.
I might discover in the first three minutes of my meditation that I owe my wife and apology. Then I might write her something like this:
“Dear Teresa, last night when we were talking and it escalated into an argument, I felt at first that you were doing something that I did not like. The thing that you were doing really triggered old feelings for me and they brought up all kinds of worries that really have nothing to do with our relationship or with you. I spoke to you in a manner that I need to apologize for.
My emotions got the best of me. I love you so much and it’s easy for me to feel fear and be triggered, and my first response is always to be defensive. I sound defended and angry. It’s a way I protect myself and it doesn’t really work. I don’t feel protected, I don’t pursue an act of love, I don’t make you feel better, and I don’t get what I want.
Now that I am aware of what is going on I am working to integrate that into my behavior and my patterns. First and foremost, I hope that you will forgive me. I never want to be a source of pain for you in any way. Secondly, I want to remind you that in spite of my anger or hurtful words I love you dearly and I am very grateful that you are in my life. Love always, Marcus”
In the course of our relationship I must have written a letter that mixes up those same words at least 10 times. And my wife is lovely because she seems to always forgive me, and from time to time she writes me apology letters just like that. And when she writes a kind of letter, I feel an instant sense of relief and forgiveness and it makes me feel safe. We have a wonderful relationship.
It’s because I take the time to sit still and contemplate my relationship and where I’m at in my body that I’m able to see those kinds of things happening. I’m able to slow down the action and go into an instant slow motion replay of my life. I’m able to see and contemplate every move that I make. Then I use my conscience to determine whether or not the thing I did was harmful to another.
It’s also through meditation that I’m able to discover whether or not a person has done something to me that I know I don’t like, and no matter what I do I probably will never like what was done. It’s difficult to face up to such things. We want everyone who we are involved with in life to always be perfect and do everything the way we like.
That cannot happen. It’s impossible. Everyone we know is different. Everyone has different needs. Everyone has their own program. We’re never going to be perfectly synced. In cases in which I feel that I was wrong, I have to spend a lot of time tracing in writing what I think I’ve been wrong about. Then I have to come up with a strategy of how I’m going to make someone I love and care for see the nature of their behavior.
Before I get involved with that, I have to accept that they may never see what they’ve done wrong. I also have to come to an intelligent decision that if the person never saw the nature of the wrong they did to me that I can still love and accept them absolutely.
There are things that my wife could do to our relationship and to me directly that I would never accept. Those are obvious things. But maybe not. Maybe if I opened up my heart and I created enough stability and strength in my mind then I could endure anything. That remains to be seen.
I keep an open mind. When I do so, I create more possibilities in my life. And when I have more possibilities, I have more opportunities to be happy.