Q: How do I reach [the real]?
A: You need not reach out for what is already with you. Your very reaching out makes you miss it. Give up the idea that you have not found it and just let it come into the focus of direct perception, here and now, by removing all that is of the mind.
Q: When all that can go, goes, what remains?
A: Emptiness remains, awareness remains, pure light of the conscious being remains. It is like asking what remains of a room when all the furniture is removed. A most serviceable room remains. And when the walls are pulled down, space remains. Beyond space and time is the here and the now of reality.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj,
I Am That
Our meditation works because we let the mind do what the mind naturally does. It seeks the place of greatest happiness. We let the thoughts run and add one more thought, the mantra, that is just a bit more ‘charming’ to the mind than any of the other thoughts. We do not try to control the mind, we do not focus, we do not concentrate. We do not fight our thinking. We allow the mantra to do the work for us, and we let our mind do whatever it does, and the mind naturally follows the mantra to a deeper experience, a more ‘blissful’ place within.
We do not mind the thoughts. We let the thoughts be. So mantra alone, mantra and thoughts, only thoughts – these all are perfectly legitimate experiences to be had in meditation, one no better than another.
And yet invariably, after we have learned to meditate, after we have done it for a few days or weeks and we start to notice how busy our mind sometimes can be, even in meditation, we think ‘something’s off. It’s not working any more. I’m doing something wrong.’ Then we try to make our mind behave, we try to push away the thoughts, we try to have only the mantra and force it to do for us what we need it to do. Frustration ensues. Perhaps even a headache.
Do what I did. Write this on a card and put it next to where you meditate:
“Thoughts in meditation are to be expected. Thoughts in meditation are evidence of stresses leaving our body. Thoughts in meditation mean our meditation is working.”
There is no amount of skill we can gather as meditators that will keep us from having thoughts. Expert meditators do not have thought-free meditations. Rather, they simply do not judge their meditations by how many or how few thoughts they may have.
And always, with our meditation, there is an experience to be had that is different than what we may be having with our eyes open. An experience of de-excitation, of relaxation, of stress release, of bliss chemistry. Nature is in charge, and takes us to the level of evolution we are capable of today.
Today I will allow my mantra to help me have the meditation that nature wants me to have, and if I must judge my meditation, I will do so by how I feel 20 minutes or half an hour after the meditation. Do I feel better than I did before I meditated? Do I feel a bit more relaxed, a bit more grounded, a bit more prepared to face the day? Am I glad I meditated?
Buddha in the garden, tintype