Quaker Pathways Forward —and— Inner Landscapes Activists’
Self-Observing & Meditation
- 23 Self-observing/Meditation Choices
- Christian Contemplative Prayer and Meditation
- Forms of Walking Meditation
Renee Descartes’ declaration in 1637, “I think, therefore I am,” powerfully aligned Western thought with the material form-identified ego, and the limited human mind-brain for the centuries that would follow. Yet we are fundamentally NOT the ego which is just an amalgam of meticulously maintained, habitual thoughts ruled by fear. Our “material” form is an infinitesimally small part of who we are. And the brain, mind, and intellect which we idolize are merely tools. We are the awareness — the vast consciousness which is one with the field of universal intelligence behind the “avatar*-ego,” and its brain.
We think approximately 70,000 thoughts per day. We can choose to let these thoughts ride roughshod over us and align us with the limited ego. Or we can come to understand the mind and consciously, intentionally train it to serve our own growth and the evolution of our society.
Most people don’t understand the purpose of the human mind as a tool. Instead, like Descartes, we deify the mind with its limited reality-frame, and indulge its incessant fear-driven discursive thought. We thereby inadvertently cause ourselves and others a great deal of unnecessary suffering. The suffering stems from the way our minds have been conditioned to involuntarily focus on form, materiality, and separation. This to the exclusion of awareness of ourselves predominantly as consciousness.
The ego mistakenly sees itself as separate from others and its environment despite the reality of universal interconnectedness. Western philosophy and political-economy aid and abet this inaccuracy. The dissonance between interrelational reality and the West’s hammering home hyper-individuality, competition, and polarization generates suffering.
Self-observing helps us understand and gain mastery over our minds so that we can align with the more vast part of who we are and see the big picture. When we see from the clarity of the larger consciousness frame our relationships, our work, and our lives become more effective.
Meditation is not another technique we learn to intellectually force ourselves into a special state. There are myriad ways to get into the habit of observing our thoughts without judging ourselves. We don’t have to use someone else’s tool or process. We can let go of preconceived ideas about what to expect.
We gently invite the intellect and the ticker-tape stream of thought to move out of the way. We are invited to fear nothing, hope for nothing, and expect nothing. We resist the temptation to analyze, replay mental tapes of past experience, or plan. We witness what emerges when we dispassionately accept whatever emerges.
This involves letting go and simply being —resting in the still space of the larger consciousness rather than executing rituals. (See Effortless Presence rubric below.) It is in the stillness that the way in which the non-material pervades denser reality-frames is subtly and experientially revealed.
Translated practically into our life experience, this means progressively freeing ourselves from: judging, blaming, criticizing ourselves and others, chasing after pleasure and running away from pain.
- Focus attention.
- Calm and still discursive thought.
- Observe conditioned egoic self.
- Recognize true self AS consciousness.
- Rest effortlessly in still point consciousness.
- Open and surrender to still point consciousness, awaiting awareness of how we can become conduits through which the larger consciousness system can inform our lives, growth, work, and society.
- Order of Interbeing (Thich Nhat Hahn)
Focusing: Focus the attention on a single object during the whole meditation session. The object may be the breath, a mantra, visualization, part of the body, a repetitive activity, an external object, etc. Over time it becomes easier to keep the flow of attention on the chosen object. Distractions become fewer and more short-lived. Depth and steadiness of attention develop.
Observing & Monitoring: Remain open, monitor all aspects of present experience, without judgment or attachment. All perceptions, internal thoughts, feelings, memory, etc., and external stimuli (e.g., sound, smell, etc.), are gently acknowledged and released from awareness. This is non-reactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment, without delving into it.
Effortless Presence/ Calm Abiding/ Still-point Consciousness: Refrain from focusing on anything in particular.The mind rests on itself – quiet, empty, steady, and introverted.
Resting in effortless presence is actually the true purpose behind all kinds of meditation. Focused attention and open monitoring are ways to train the mind so that effortless inner silence and deeper states of consciousness can be discovered. Eventually both the object of focus and the monitoring processes are left behind, and only the true self of the practitioner remains in still-point consciousness as “pure presence.”
Basic Breath Meditation: 4-min podcast
- Find a quiet, pleasant place where you can do your meditation practice.
- When starting out, see if you can allow 5 minutes for the practice, and increase that amount over time.
- Take your seat. Sit cross-legged on a meditation cushion, or on a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor, without leaning against the back of the chair.
- Find your sitting posture. Place your hands palms-down on your thighs and sit in an upright posture with a straight back—relaxed yet dignified. With your eyes open, let your gaze rest comfortably as you look slightly downward about six feet in front of you.
- Notice and follow your breath. Place your attention lightly on your out-breath, while remaining aware your environment. Be with each breath as the air goes out through your mouth and nostrils and dissolves into the space around you.
- At the end of each out-breath, simply rest until the next in-breath naturally begins. For a more focused meditation, you can follow both the out-breaths and in-breaths.
- Note the thoughts and feelings that arise. Whenever you notice that a thought, feeling, or perception has taken your attention away from the breath, just say to yourself, “thinking,” and return to following the breath. No need to judge yourself when this happens; just gently note it and attend to your breath and posture.
*Avatar —The physical body, a temporary vehicle for non-localized individuated consciousness which is subject to the rule-set of physics in its localized [apparently physical] reality-frame.