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Thursday, April 4, 2013

THE PURPOSE OF LIFE

Image result for sitting in meditation cartoon



Meditation has been written about and practiced for millennia. Reference the Upanishads and other ancient texts from all over the world, and you will see that though many forms and methods exist, all meditation styles have the same aim, which is: To still the mind, go beyond the thoughts and dwell with the consciousness that is one's essence.

It is nice to see that modern medicine is finally catching on, as prestigious institutions such as the Mayo Clinic endorse meditation for stress relief. You see, it is not enough to eat well and be active if you are constantly harried by thoughts and anxieties of your own making. And through meditation, which allows you to observe your thoughts, rather than identify with every passing and desire and fear that moves past your consciousness, you can get beyond the mind, reach that first thought, which is "I am," and which is the source of all other thoughts. We see the world from a subjective point of view, and everything we see from the viewpoint of being different or other than ourselves (our body/mind complexes). But if you go past that first thought of identification with the body and mind, in other words past your ego, you reach a state that can only be called supreme "Isness" which is your very nature, and mine, and everyone else's.



We are all akin to points of light. Imagine the stars of the firmament. Though they are of many shapes and sizes, their essential nature, as light, is the same. And so it goes for you and me and everyone else. Though our bodies may differ, and our minds, and the hopes dreams and wishes, fears anxieties and concerns, we are all at heart One, and that One is infinite and the source of all. Known as Sat chit ananda in the East: Existence, consciousness, bliss. There is a western counterpart. Joseph Campbell quotes a famous theologian who cites three distinct periods in the evolution of humanity, corresponding to each member of Christianity's Holy Trinity. The first age was of the Father, the Laws of Moses and the People of Israel. The second of the son, the New Testament and the Church. And now, finally, a third age, of the Holy Spirit, that was to be "of saints in meditation." There is no longer a divinely ordained authority that we have to recognize. Each of us is free to seek his own destiny and truth, and to quest for this and find it through our own doing. Each of us can follow the star and spirit of his own life. This is a time not to search for divinity in another (be it institution or holy person) but to find it within ourselves, and meditation can facilitate the process of introspection.

I'd like to share with you a special method I learned in my travels to the East. All you will need is a comfortable and quiet place to sit, a candle, and about thirty minutes. Light the candle and position it about a foot or so away from you in a room without a draft, so the flame is still. Sit cross-legged, back erect but comfortable. Close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Now you are ready to begin. Watch the candle flame without blinking. Do this for a count of 12. At the count of 12, blink. Do this 12 times (repetitions). That constitutes one "set." Repeat this (12 counts of 12) another 11 times, for a total of 12 sets. Only blink every 12 seconds. Doing the math you will note that this meditation will require 12x12x12 seconds to complete, or 28 minutes 48 seconds. There is a significance to the number 12 which I won't go into here in part because I don't have the manuscript from which this method was derived. The purpose of this exercise? Through focus of the vision on a flame, and the thoughts on the count of 12, still the mind so that you can spend time beyond thought, in a state of "Beingness." You will find at first that your mind is besieged by thought upon thought. Mental static. Don't grasp at these thoughts. Just watch them go by, as you would in a movie theater if the thoughts were projected on the screen.

The Light has special significance. It is said that one's soul dwells in the heart, and is exactly the same as God (like rays of sunlight being the same in essence as the Sun). "That being, of the size of a thumb, is like a flame without smoke. He is the lord of time, past and future, the same today and tomorrow. He, verily, is the immortal Self." (translated by Swami Prabhavananda;and Frederick Manchester. The Upanishads: Breath of the Eternal (p. 33). Kindle Edition. )

End your meditation with the syllable "Om" or "Aum." Hebrews and Christians alike will recognize the similarity of the syllable Aum with their Amen. According to ancient texts, OM is the imperishable Word, the utterance that began creation, and each letter is symbolic for one of the three states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. You will note that at any given time you are in one of these three states. The "A" is for the Waker, the "U" for the dreamer, and the "M" for the sleeper. The silence that surrounds the syllable is the 4th state, which is analogous to the 4th dimension, and beyond, it is Incommunicable, the Self, Brahma, God (choose your own term).

This primal utterance - AUM - brings you closer to your true nature, which is the purpose of life as we know it - to know Thyself - and there are purported to be healing properties in the syllable. As you say the word Aum, which is said to contain all vowels and at the same time to transcend language, you will feel a vibration go through you. This vibration promotes a peace and stillness of the mind and, it is said, may help to harmonize your body at a cellular level. This sense is similar to Asian bowls that are swirled to produce vibrations, only in the case of Aum, you are the instrument. And once you get good at it, you will here the syllable Aum everywhere you turn - in the blender, lawnmower, washing machine, speeding car, a horn, a baby's cry, and you will see the Oneness underlying everything, and that darn siren which nearly pierces your eardrums every time it goes by won't leave you feeling so darn annoyed anymore! :)

So try this meditation on the light, culminating in the utterance of Aum, to still the mind and commune with the perfect Beingness which is your nature and the soul of everything in the Universe and beyond the Universe, beyond Space and Time.

Of course, there are other forms of meditation, and sitting in front of the light is a good way to begin. The goal, however, is to take the practice of meditation with you wherever you go, and to practice it at all times, in your relations with others, in crowded rooms, and not just while sitting still but through movement as well. And this - meditation in movement - may appeal to those who are sedentary by profession. After sleeping for eight hours, sitting in traffic for two, and being confined to a desk for another eight-hour workday, the last thing one might wish to do is to plop down and stare at a candle flame for another 30 minutes. And for such an individual achieving stillness in motion may be the key, through movement - up the stairs, on the bike, swimming, running, or walking - to concentrate on the breath and so achieve the stillness of the mind that is otherwise attainable through focusing on the flame.

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