The beauty and quiet beside the stream at the upper end of the park that runs through town struck me immediately upon taking my seat. Sunlight bathed the water and illuminated the grass across the creek in a shimmering green.
Long shadows and the rippling current gave the feeling of shelter and refuge, and meditation came easily, without effort, for there was little mental or emotional debris to dissolve in the stream of awareness.
When the observer is negated in awareness quicker than the infinite regression of thought splitting itself off from itself, attention gathers and acts on the entire movement of thought, and the mind falls completely silent.
Ever since I basically lost my 20’s to acute depression (the kind where you can’t get up off the couch for days), I’ve taken the time to meditate every day. More than any other factor, meditation saved my life. It’s how I was able to avoid going on anti-depressants. I empathize with people who have, but get off them as soon as you can.
In the process of meditation I discovered inner riches beyond description. So can methodless meditation be taught? If there is no method, can the approach and intent to completely quiet the mind be conveyed?
Methods, techniques and systems of meditation deny meditation because using products of thought to quiet thought is a self-defeating contradiction. This is why the idea that ‘all meditative paths lead to the same destination’ is false.
Though it’s sometimes called ‘via negativa,’ or the negative way, negation is not a method, a path, or a ‘way’ at all. This is why I’ve come to realize that what I call meditation bears little or no resemblance to what most Buddhists call meditation.
I realize I’m fortunate to have the time to take nearly daily meditations in nature. To sit quietly beside a stream or lake, or under a fine tree, and let the senses attune to one’s environment, is a rare thing, especially in this hyper-kinetic digital age. But it is foundational to quieting the mind, bringing peace to the heart, and renewal to the brain.
It wasn’t luck for me however. I’ve taken the time, because I saw daily quiet time in nature as a priority, essential to health and well being. Others, who follow the dictates of duty, may call it selfish, but it isn’t.
After letting the senses attune to the environment and one hears every sound as it arises one becomes acutely aware of the chattering mind.
I first began to consistently take sittings outdoors over 30 years ago, when it became imperative to end the emotional and even physical cycles of depression. I would start by asking myself: do I have any goal in mind?
The intent was to end all seeking in favor of simply watching and listening to what is, in nature and within oneself. When we seek, we have an idea of something we’re blatantly or subtly trying to achieve. That prevents meditation from occurring, because true meditation (or contemplation, or whatever you want to call it) is a matter of seeing and remaining with what is.
When the folly of inward goals was clear from the get go, the question became, is the observer operating?
If one doesn’t interfere with judgments, analysis, reactive associations and deliberate thinking by the observer, and one simply passively watches the movement of thought and emotion in the same way one is listens to sounds as they occur, attention gathers and acts on the movement of thought, quieting the mind.
In recent months, the question has become: Is time operating? Asking oneself questions like these honestly and non-repetitively draws attention to the hidden movements of thought. Awareness unearths patterns and programs, and attention incinerates them.
Is a fully illumined human being one who lives without any movement of psychological thought? Perhaps so, and for those rare birds sittings beside streams and lakes may be superfluous.
But for the rest of us ordinary human beings, we have a lot of spadework to do. And spadework, which is taking the time to bring forth one’s conditioning, is different and distinct from the art of observation. (If you don’t do your spadework, and refuse to sort out what’s true and what’s false within you, the worst of your parents dominates you.)
There may still be cultures in the world where there is space, where people have time to be alone as well as be with friends and family, in addition to doing their work. But in the West, the outer frenzy, information overload, and general darkness has overwhelmed us, and greatly contributed to depression, and the suffocation of the spirit.
To hell with what others think. Take the time to sort yourself out every day, and passively observe one’s inner movement in the mirror of nature.