“That is my worst nightmare. Just me and my mind in silence? No way. I would go crazy!”
I had just told a friend that I had booked in for a 10 day silent meditation retreat and he replied as if I was volunteering for solitary confinement in prison. How strange that the perception of the meditation experience for one person can be blissful and for another hellish.
Why is this the case? How can it be so divisive when we are only talking about being still and silent?
On a very simple level, I think we are afraid of what we don’t know and understand and the practice of meditation has so much baggage and stereotype around it that many people just don’t understand why spending 10 days in silence could do anything positive for them.
Well, it can.
Meditation can create internal change that is profound and life changing. It can re-connect us with something we have lost.
Author and meditator Lawrence LeShan recalls how he was with a group of leading scientists who all meditated daily and he asked them why:
“Various answers were given by different members of the group and we all knew that they were unsatisfactory, that they did not really answer the questions. Finally one man said, “It’s like coming home.” There was silence after this, and one by one all nodded their heads in agreement. There was clearly no need to prolong the inquiry further.”
Can you recall that feeling of when you return home after a long period of travel? You open the door, notice the familiar smells, sights and sounds of your home. You put down your bags, take in your surroundings. You look with fresh eyes at what is familiar. You sink into your favourite chair and truly relax. You sigh with relief. You have been travelling a long time and seen many things. But now you are home. It feels rejuvenating and grounding, just as meditation feels.
People who meditate also consistently report feeling less stress and anxiety. We feel emotionally aware and balanced. We know that through the practice we live more in present moment reality than in imagined and projected futures. We feel more capacity for love and compassion. We feel more connected to our fellow man, to all beings and all living things.
And as we continue on the path of meditation we see that all of these reasons are actually just the same. All these reasons to meditate point to the essential why: when we meditate we give up the illusion of separateness and we come home to wholeness.
We become what we have always been but our dualistic mind has fought to deny: we are inter-connected and part of the universal whole.
“When we meditate we give up the illusion of separateness and we come home to wholeness.”
Meditation & Purpose
How do we find our purpose in life? It is not as complicated as you may think.
Let’s return to the metaphor of meditation as coming home. I often feel the allure of travelling and the stagnation of being in once place for too long, so I might pack my bags, hit the road and fulfil my wanderlust. But there comes a time when I feel the inner need for stability, growing roots and coming home. There is always a yin and a yang to the travel experience—a constant balance between adventuring from one place to another and wanting to feel settled, able to unpack the bags and just rest in one place for a while.
When we travel we experience and see many things, sometimes in a flurry of activity, sight-seeing and doing. It is often only when we return home or stay in one place for a while that we integrate what we have learned and experienced into the fabric of our consciousness. It is all about balance.
Living without a practice that connects you to the whole (which includes everyone, everything, and the part within you that feels emotion and expresses itself with intuition, instinct and spontaneity), is to live in a state of chronic imbalance.
“You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.” ~ Alan W. Watts
Purpose comes from within, which means that your meaning in life is encoded within you and expresses itself through heartfelt emotion and feelings. If you live your life disconnected to your inner self and spend your entire life searching for answersoutside yourself, you will never be able to access the truth within. You won’t even be able to see it or know what is there.
You may think you have purpose, but if this does not sprout from the soil of your heart, it will be artificial and unsustainable.
The solution to finding ones authentic purpose is to stop looking out there and be still and silent so you can experience what is within you. Meditation is extremely effective in this regard, as are many other forms of re-connecting to wholeness such as immersing in nature, experiencing flow states, altered states of consciousness and giving to others.
Separation & Wholeness
“Living without a practice that connects you to the whole is to live in a state of chronic imbalance.”
Psychologist Max Wertheimer once defined an adult as “a deteriorated child,” referring to the state of curious, open awareness and connection that characterises children. In contrast, much of humanity exists in a state of separation and dis-connect that is not our natural state but is enforced and heightened by many facets of western culture.
Encouraged to compete for everything and to value more then inner development we become fearful and insecure, cling on to pleasures and avoid pains. There is a sense of alone-ness. The ego self is brittle and fragile. When we feed this identity with with the attention, validation, pleasures and comfort that it craves, we still feel hollow and unsatisfied: It’s like a hungry ghost.
On the other hand, achieving a sense of connectedness is to return to a natural state. We sense that we are part of the universe and we reconnect with life on a level of consciousness that was previously inaccessible.
Even a fleeting experience of one-ness can permeate our consciousness forever more: we change ourselves and regress in the most positive way toward our full potential. We move back toward our connected childhood. We ask questions and receive answers from within. If that sounds like crazy mumbo jumbo, we are just talking about accessing your intuition or gut feeling.
The goal of meditation is simply to achieve our full human potential, as beings that are connected to a deeper sense of “I”, to each other and to the Earth.
Despite the stereotypes of meditation as a blissful pursuit, it is a hard discipline and requires great determination. The idea of a non-meditator signing up for a 10 day silent meditation retreat is similar to a non-runner signing up for a marathon. It is daunting and even if it is possible to achieve, a progressive “training regime” would be beneficial.
In the next article I will lay out a “pre-meditation” plan for those who wish to learn meditation but are intimidated by the idea of a 10 day silent meditation retreat. There are many practices you can add to your daily life that will help you do the groundwork for the serious task of becoming whole.
Please comment below if you feel purpose and meditation have had some relation to each other in your life.
Author: Jiro Taylor
Editor: Katarina Tavčar