Skip to main content


I hereby proclaim that June is meditation month. And July and August and some of September too. For me at least. During the hundred days that comprise summer, give or take, I have taken it upon myself to "assume the position" for approximately one hour each day, usually divided into two 30-minute sessions. During this time I sit in front of a candle flame, let my breathing subside, and with it my mental activity, and literally count the seconds.

The reductive tendency that is emblematic of science has penetrated schools of meditation, and there are many, each of which advertises its particular breed as, if not being the best, at least boasting novel or specific benefits not found in other forms of meditation. 

For example, there is mindfulness, which is the monitoring of thoughts. There is concentration or focus, as on an object or the breath. There is transcendental meditation, which uses the inward repetition of a phrase, or mantra, to "allow your active mind to easily settle inward, through quieter levels of thought, until you experience the most silent and peaceful level of your own awareness — pure consciousness."

Each method has its associated brain wave. Controlled focus practices involve gamma rays, seen whenever you concentrate or during “active” cognitive processing. Mindfulness practices give rise to frontal theta, a pattern commonly seen during memory tasks or reflection on mental concepts. The EEG pattern seen in transcendental meditation is frontal alpha coherence, associated with a distinct state of relaxed inner wakefulness. And we've only just broached the subject. There's Yogananda's Kriya Yoga, and the Taoist Secret of the Golden Flower, not to mention Patanjali's Sutras, Ramana Maharshi's self-inquiry, the professional athlete's "zone," and of course the advice given by Krishna to his disciple Arjuna on the battlefield, which is arguably the godfather of them all. And let's not forget the Buddhist monks, who have their own patented brand of meditation, which consists of dwelling on "loving kindness and compassion."

But what each breed of contemplation, in promoting itself as distinct and superior, fails to recognize is the overlap that unites all forms of the ancient practice. They are all yogic, and yoga means union, as in the lower self (mind) with the higher Self (unmanifest, absolute, pure Being). Whether you choose to recite a mantra, focus your awareness on an object, emotion, thought or behavior, or monitor your thoughts, you inevitably also practice the other two techniques. The practitioner of transcendental meditation is instructed while reciting his mantra to be aware of thoughts which intrude on the consciousness and in a non-judgmental and non-emotional manner bring himself back to the mantra. This is mindfulness. And the gaze is always focused on something, even when the eyes are closed and that thing is utter darkness. 

So in adopting one form of meditation you glean the benefits of all forms of meditation. Your cognition improves, as does your memory. As your blood pressure falls and stress hormones levels subside, you become more relaxed and at-ease. And so we see that meditation is like going on a diet. If you do it long enough, you will get the desired result. Weight loss if you cut out bread, and a feeling of inner calm and clarity if you meditate. The trick is to stick with the practice.

Of course, the very thing we use meditation to go beyond - that is, the mind - looms as the biggest obstacle to our continued success. The personality, that psychical mind, is the wakeful enemy of all who tread the path of Self-realization. For the path leads to the inevitable extinction of thought, which is mind. Even now, I can hear it whispering the doubt whether "that can be a good path, which sets mind at defiance." This is probably why I used to say that studying spirituality was the best thing that ever happened to me, or the worst. That is, until I started meditating, and clearly see the benefits. 

Because the mind, and with it the ego, must die if bliss is your aim. Years of developing the mental faculties, exploring the mind's full potential - through hallucinogenics, advanced degrees, world travels and all sorts of creative writing endeavors - has led me to the irrefutable conclusion that the more you invest in the mind, the more it can be used against you. I filled my head with all sorts of notions and philosophies and information, and wound up irritable, confused and forgetful. How did I know I was on the wrong track? Simple: I wasn't happy. The bliss stick, as I call it, went in and came out zero. Or in the minus area, even, because there was a lot of what they call negative rumination going on in my overstuffed head. The mind on overdrive is not a good thing. What you need is to power down, enter the area of no mind. Just be. That's how you contact your essence. 

I speak from experience, but if you want an authority more hoary than I, Patanjali writes in his Yoga Sutras (400 AD; please read 'tis free!): "When the [the mind] takes on the form of the spiritual intelligence, by reflecting it [i.e. is without thought], then the Self [pure Being] becomes conscious of its own spiritual intelligence."

In the quiet mind the Self sees itself as in a mirror, and thus becomes not only conscious, but self-conscious. The mind reflected outward reveals the manifest world, reflected inward reveals the unmanifest source of all. Reflecting stillness, and with it gaining the bliss which is your birthright, is the purpose of the whole evolutionary process and the overriding aim of meditation, which extends far beyond physiological and psychological effects, though the thought of a higher IQ and healthier heart serves as a handy lure. In making the mind quiescent, we glimpse pure Being in that silence and stillness. And pure Being is our true nature. It is our essence. And thus the ancients say: "I am That. Thou art That. And all that there is, too."

Of course, without mind there would be no writing, and I hope you enjoyed this post. It can be a useful tool, if used to certain ends and with moderation. But between constructive endeavors, rest in the space of pure Being-Awareness-Bliss. Or BAB, for short. You can't simply read about BAB. You must DO IT.

And speaking of diets, if you're thinking about giving a food group up, cut out meat. It's one of the five commandments enjoined by Patanjali, not to mention Buddha and the Bible. (In addition not to kill we have not to lie or commit adultery or steal or drink intoxicants). Plant food is good for your midsection and for your meditation, too.


Popular posts from this blog


I was watching the TV show Naked and Afraid last night as I sometimes do. The show teams together two strangers, a man and a woman, who attempt to survive on their own for a period of 21 days in some remote and isolated region. Some of the locales featured include the Australian Outback, the Amazonian rainforest and the African Savanna. The man may have a military background, or be an adventurist or deep sea fisherman. Sometimes he's an ordinary dude who lives with mom. The woman is a park ranger or extreme fitness enthusiast or "just a mom" herself. Sometimes the couple quarrel, sometimes one or both "tap out" (quit) in a fit of anger or illness. It is satisfying to see them actually make it through the challenge and reach their extraction point. The victors are usually exhausted, emaciated, begrimed and bare ass naked. 

Even more satisfying, at least for me, is the occasional ass shot, snuck in at strategic intervals to boost viewership, of course. It's co…


There is no such thing as screw-ups.

Case in point. My excellent friend Deej comes over to help me beautify the garden. He immediately dives in, crouching down on his knees and weed whacking with his bare hands. Before I can say yay or nay, he proceeds to remove a huge clump of daisy greens from the oblong patch of Earth adjacent to the driveway. The area instantly looks bare. Like the back of Woody Allen's head. Smoothing out the soil and shaking his head Deej mutters to himself "I fucked it up!" over and over again. We try everything. Planting succulents in the daisy's place. Covering it with rocks. But still the area looks barren. And every time you water it the water trickles down onto the sidewalk in the absence of roots to hold it in place. It's getting dark so we go back inside. The next day I return to the spot with a clear perspective and remove all the other daisies, leaving only rose bushes and the succulents that DJ planted, and depositing 10 bags of m…


This is not a commentary on the latest fitness fad. Because if it were, the little I'd have to say on the subject would be largely derogatory. I simply cannot see see how crouching in a stuffy, dark, cramped room surrounded by sweat-drenched strangers while expending a lot of energy and going nowhere deserves to be called fun, though aficionados tell me it is (fun). I tell these aficionados that if no pain no gain is your thing, discomfort can be had for a lot cheaper than $50 an hour. Try plucking your nose hairs. What we don't do for the sake of beauty. This endurance heir to the Stairmaster and elliptical is all hype. There's a name for the type who likes to run (or otherwise move) in place. It's called a hamster. 

This reminds me of a joke my father likes to tell, about what living with a woman turns a guy into. You go from a wolf to a sheep to a hamster. After nearly 40 years of married life, my dad has added cockroach to the zoological lineage. Which I'm sure …