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Meditation Begins When Control Ends

All systems of meditation are based on a false premise—that of control. The essence of any system, technique or method is control. Therefore all systems and methods of meditation are antithetical to meditation.


Photo by Martin Lefevre

That’s a tragedy for the countless meditation teachers and their followers in the West, for meditation can only begin when there is no control whatsoever.

It has been said that everyone is a mansion of many rooms. But that is merely a sophisticated way of denying one’s split and empty self, and of never knowing how to be nothing, and thereby, whole.

It’s simply moronic to maintain that “each human is a conglomeration of identities: ethnic, racial, professional, geographic, religious and so on.”
So-called single-identity thinking isn’t the problem; there is no identity without identification, and there is no identification without division.

Therefore the issue is identity itself, not whether one ludicrously proposes having many selves (‘a mansion of many rooms’), or attempts to retain a traditional, relatively healthy self, which is no longer possible in this culture and world.

Is it in the very nature of thought to generate the illusory chooser and controller?

Because we humans manipulate our environments rather than live in ecological niche as all other animals do, we make the mistake of thinking we can control nature, others, and the various parts of ourselves. But what is the chooser/controller, except an inextricable part of the same movement of thought it is futilely trying to control?

Control is an illusion. No one actually has control of anyone or anything. The more one tries to control people and things, the more bound and twisted one becomes.

Thought, with its systems and methods, cannot quiet the movement of thought. Effort and concentration have no place in meditation.

I always take my sittings outdoors, even in the snow (though they are shorter) when I visit my native state in the Mid-West during winter. Sensations are not to be suppressed, as Eastern traditions have maintained, but given freedom without indulgence, for sensations are always of the present.

Internally, alongside what the ear hears, the eyes see and the skin feels in the present, one listens to one’s desires, suffering, and even boredom. It all has its story to tell, but one has to let the knots unravel, which they always do if one does nothing but listen and watch.

Therefore meditation involves watching the movement of thought/emotion without any attempt to control it. The very watching, without the judgment and control of the illusory, choosing self, gathers undirected attention, which acts on the movement of thought, stilling it.

Therefore the key is to intensely watch thoughts and emotions as they arise in the same way you watch leaves flowing by in a stream during autumn. At first thought is like a mass of leaves clinging to rocks and clogging the stream.

However the very act of passively watching gathers attention and opens spaces. Unexpectedly, one finds that thoughts begin coming in small clumps, then singly, and then not at all.

When thought falls completely silent in inclusive attention to its movement as a whole and to the arising of thought/emotion in the moment, psychological time ends. The mind and brain spontaneously leave the two-dimensional world of thought, and enter the multi-dimensional actuality of being beyond thought.

In that stillness of mind, in which psychological time ends, there is insight, renewal and love.

“For the listener, who listens in the snow,stillness-of-mind-1
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”
Wallace Stevens

The “nothing that is not there” means that the interpreting, filtering, and choosing mind is not operating; then there is only what is, which allows the brain to commune with “the nothing that is.”

Suddenly, a half hour before sunset, the flat, gray light at the gorge changed. A huge swath of alpenglow bathed the volcanic slabs below and the dark cliffs above. At the same moment, and just as unexpectedly, the mind went into meditation.

The light only lasted about 20 minutes before the clouds of the day again filled the space, producing a nondescript sunset. But the light had filled one’s heart with beauty, mystery and reverence. It remains with one at midnight as I prepare for bed.

During the illumination, a group of college guys that had passed by earlier began yelling and throwing rocks like kids in the gorge. They were more than a quarter mile away, but their voices carried on the breeze, mixing with the sound of the rushing water. A few were down in the gorge, and a few stood in the light on the other side.

After the alpenglow disappeared, they gathered on this side and walked out single file on the narrow, rocky path behind me. They were friendly as they passed, and one of them said, “Quite a view.”

Yes, did you see the light? I only realized its double meaning as the words left my lips.

Martin LeFevre

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