Take it or leave it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

NATURE ABHORS A VACUUM



The other day I picked up The Secret of the Golden Flower, which is a thirteen hundred-year-old Taoist treatise discovered in China by a German man named Richard Wilhelm, who "recognized it as essentially a practical guide to the integration of personality" and translated it in 1929. The psychiatrist Carl Jung praised the book, which provides instruction on meditation, as a link between Eastern spirituality and Western science. The essence of the instruction boils down to this: "Look with both eyes at the tip of the nose, lower the lids, look within, sit quietly with upright body, and fix the heart on the center in the midst of conditions," or the solar plexus, and do this for a quarter of an hour or so each day. 

This advice is not unlike that which was dispensed by the Indian sage Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose disciples while alive included the Beatles, and whose transcendental meditation techniques are praised by such auteurs as David Lynch in addition to Ellen and Katy and Oprah and other individuals we recognize on the basis of their first name alone. The Maharishi was the cutest man who advised disciples to sit still for twenty minutes twice a day and repetitively recite a mantra or phrase suitable to the individual. The purpose of the mantra, supplied by the meditation teacher, is to "experience the thought of that sound and minimize that thought to experience the finer states of that thought – until the source of thought is fathomed and the conscious mind reaches the transcendental area of being.” If that sounds confusing it is also costly. A course in TM can run you anywhere from $400 to over a thousand dollars. Or you can just buy Mahesh's book, which I found used and in good condition on Amazon for $5.98 including shipping. 

I know I'd only be attending a course on Transcendental Meditation to meet chicks, and $400 is about ten times above what I consider to be an affordable dinner, so I recommended it to a friend, who in addition to being a guilt-ridden gourmand is always looking for a girlfriend. I prefer to make dates at the car wash anyway. If the thought of paying even a cent to learn a practice which adepts purport to flow naturally from within as our essential nature seems as ludicrous to you as it does to me, then read on. It will only cost you a few minutes to learn all I have to teach on the subject. 

I was first exposed to meditation as a boy of 7 or 8 in Balvikas. Balvikas is a type of Sunday school based on the teachings of vedanta as expressed by the holy man Sai Baba, where the instructor would have the students sit in front of a candle flame as he guided us through a ten-minute experience. The idea was that we should practice meditation on our own at home, but I never did. TV took precedence, as did playing outside. When as a college student of twenty I took my fifth and final trip to see Sai Baba in India I met an Australian man who recommended a particular method of meditation he swore had results both impressive and immediate. He referred me to a discourse of Sai Baba's in which the method was laid out. I went home and rifled through my dad's old copies of Sanathana Sarathi, the monthly magazine founded in 1958 and published by the Sai Organization to feature Baba's discourses in serial form. This was in pre-Internet 1993. I somehow found the lecture and immediately sat down to apply the teachings, which are: 

"Look at any object --flame, idol, or picture - for 12 seconds with total concentration and without blinking eyelids. This is concentration (dharana). Twelve dharana concentrations make one meditation (dhyana). This means that meditation should last for 12x12 = 144 seconds. Thus, proper meditation need not last more than 2 minutes 24 secs. Twelve meditations equal one samadhi, which amounts to 12x144 seconds =  28 minutes 48 seconds."

I meditated in such a way on and off for a couple weeks but soon lost interest and returned to my former pursuits - mainly watching TV and playing outside. I also got really into cleaning, and it was then that I developed a relationship with the Dustbuster which I am proud to say continues to this day. Around the same time I also began the practice of sexual energy channeling at the behest of a friend who was a practitioner himself. Mantak Chia's book on the subject instructs the reader to redirect life force in the body rather than dissipate it as ejaculate. I mention sexual energy channeling because The Secret of the Golden Flower also refers to the practice, albeit briefly and without the enormous detail that Chia devotes to the subject. So meditation and masturbation are related, or at least one is a suitable substitute for the other. 

In the over twenty years that have intervened since I learned how to meditate, I would dabble for a day or two every few years, just to reconnect with the practice. But I never gave sitting in stillness and silence in front of a candle for a half an hour at a time the consistent attention it deserved. My thinking was, to quote Sai Baba, "[Meditation] is not something that one does by sitting for a couple of minutes or hours. Contemplation of the Lord should be always at all places. Sri Ramana Maharshi was once asked, "How long should one practice meditation? 15 or 30 or 45 minutes or an hour?' His reply was, 'You should continue doing it till you forget that you are meditating. As long as you are conscious (physically aware) that you are meditating, it is no meditation at all.' The consciousness of body and mind and the thought of yourself should become totally extinct. The experience of only the object of your meditation should subsist, i.e. nothing else but the presence of divinity. The state of meditation is experiencing but without the consciousness that you are experiencing."

And so I would study and call it meditating, run marathons and call that meditating, or read or write or drink wine or woo women, all in the name of communing with divinity! But now all this is behind me. It's funny. In Hinduism there are the four stages of life. These are dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Or righteousness, wealth, desire and liberation. You get to the meridian of life, or the half-way point, and you find all the desires and quest for material success are behind you. You have drunk the cup of youth to its dregs, and you contemplate death, and want to do your part to ensure eternal life. That's where I find myself. Or as Jung puts it, "Life has been lived so exhaustively, and with such devotedness, that no more obligations to life exist, [and], therefore, no desires that cannot be sacrificed unhesitatingly stand in the way of inner detachment from the world."

With a lust for liberation, if I may call it that, I find myself wanting to devote the exclusive attention to meditation lacking all those years that life got in the way. Thus the 100-day challenge, begun last week, in which I will continue to practice Swami's brand of meditation every day until the end of summer - which also happens to be the length of time recommended by the Taoist book - and see what happens. I am doing this in part because I have chosen to refrain from masturbation for this period, as another way of returning to my roots, and since, as they say, nature abhors a vacuum. But don't say the same about me!

One would hope the result of meditation is a detachment of consciousness from the world, and the withdrawal of it to an "extramundane point," to use the psychiatrist's phraseology. I prefer the word transcendentalism. And we find ourselves back where we began. After I'm done with my little experiment, ladies come find me. With all that semen to spare, we can get down to having twins of our own. Or as I like to call 'em: Casa and Amigos. Because I may not be done a'drinkin' just yet!





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