Meditation, Consciousness, and the Mind
Everyone thinks they know what meditation is because they have seen some image of someone sitting quietly with eyes closed. Meditation is certainly that, but it is also much more. It is a subjective experience so there are as many forms of meditation as there are - and have been - people on the surface of the earth. Do animals meditate? If you look at cats, then one can only answer in the affirmative! I don't know about owls and eagles or snakes and alligators!
However, let's look at the human brain to see how the experience of meditation has any effect on it. We know that the mind is conscious, sub-conscious, and unconscious. These are states of awareness corresponding to wakefulness, sleepy, and asleep. Though not quite correct, they help our popular understanding of the mind. This is NOT consciousness!
Our awareness can also be unconscious: as in the body adapting to slight changes in temperature without us knowing about it. It's only when the stimulus becomes extreme that it enters the thought in our wakeful state. Does the same happen when we're in deep sleep? The temperature drops and makes us pull the blanket closer to us. We're not at all awake but the body responds.
Mindfulness meditation disregards these popular and erroneous constructs of consciousness and focuses on the fact that consciousness is ever-present in its full potent form, but our awareness is not complete. Thus, mindfulness helps expand our awareness till it achieves the fullness and completeness of consciousness.
In this context, phrases such as "higher consciousness," "pure consciousness," and "cosmic consciousness," and the like are also completely erroneous! They should instead be "higher awareness," "pure awareness," and "cosmic awareness!"
Consciousness does not require a prefix or a suffix!
Things like inspiration, inner peace, happiness and transcendental experiences are only expanded versions of one or the other type of awareness. This awareness can also make us go deeper into the experience of knowledge. And this is similar to gaining deeper or different insights when you read a good book over and over again. This is also how geniuses are made: through sheer and sustained repetitious work.
It's from this area that geniuses obtain their flashes of imagination. It is the source of much deeper knowledge. Can we think of untiring study as guided meditation? Persistent labor as meditation in motion? Dance as trance?
We can, and we see these types of mediation which are not only mindful but also involve full-body participation.
Another part of this mind is the cumulative unconscious that Carl Jung did much to extrapolate. It is in this section of the mind that we have blueprints of the evolutionary past, of archetypes, and of instinctive responses. It's the element of the brain that links us to all other people due to the fact that it's the common template of humankind. To a large extent it even links us to other primates and mammals!
Consider the simian grasp, fear of reptiles, and the smile and you will comprehend the similarities. Consider also how human societies reflect animal societies and the comprehension is complete.
Thus, within these various locations of the brain is the sensation of consciousness which is also referred to as the Self. This comparision between Self and Consciousness is erroneous only when the Self is viewed in an incomplete manner. The Self is consciousness - there is no separation! Tantra states that consciousness is the mechanism by which the entire universe becomes a part of the Self. This is not something that you comprehend logically but experience in the domain of the Occult when you do into deep meditation.
The objective of meditation practice is to achieve calmness (in the preliminary stages) and then to achieve a higher state of emotion or feeling. Whether this is achieved through deep meditation by the conscious mind or through meditation of the sub-consciousness (such as lucid dreaming), the effects will be permanent.
Even if we presume that the center of our being is the ego, a well-nourished ego will illuminate The Self, making us aware of something beyond itself.
So what takes place when we practice meditation? When we meditate we have the capability to take our awareness to the various elements of our thoughts. Normally, our awareness is limited to superficial activities of daily life. However, meditation makes us look at ourselves dispassionately, reveal our dark secrets, and unveil deep rooted complexes.
We recognize fears that we were not mindful of earlier. The reason is that the awareness is now operating in the domain of the mind. The understanding is now highlighting complexes, fears, and so on, of which it wasn't formerly conscious. Before it was only mindful of the signs of those worries in the form of anger, hatred, anxiety, etc. As soon as these deep-rooted complexes are faced they might be removed and greater joy obtained in life. Many people end up becoming quite familiar with the internal procedures of the body during meditation. This is due to the fact that the consciousness ends up being conscious of the actions that control these bodily functions in our waking state.
If we don't eliminate the majority of the compulsive worry that we have at the mind, higher phases of meditation are difficult to achieve. These complexes are so compulsive that they appear to almost mechanically draw all awareness to their attention, making us blind to other aspects of our personality.
In higher states of meditation the consciousness moves to the higher mind, or the region of consciousness operating in the domain of the Occult. Awareness increases and goes beyond rational concepts and often even words and language.
The goal of meditation is self-realization. This is often interpreted as "finding one's true self" as if it is hidden somewhere in our psyche! In reality, it is the creation of The Self that is achieved. This is the power of Tantra when it reveals such secrets to us. Tantra says: Don't bother with finding your Self, simply create a brand new gorgeous Self!
Meditative practice can be used to relieve stress (at the most mundane level) or it can be a tool of creativity: a creativity that actually creates the Self you want! This is a version of samadhi that different systems of Yoga talk about. No one mentions the possibility of creating the Supreme Self, only Tantra does!
Consciousness renders the exploration of their brain and identifies with the fundamental core of an individual's present moment - pure awareness. When someone attains self-realization it suggests he has actually contacted his fundamental being and now recognizes his presence, his life, from the viewpoint of the self and not from the perspective of someone else's viewpoint. In this context, education, indoctrination, and all kind of socio-cultural norms must be surpassed. The objective of meditation is to find out more about the various regions of the mind and eventually to go beyond the domesticated mind completely.
The Two Forms of meditation: Active and Passive
Active meditation is that which happens when one performs one's everyday tasks, when a person strolls, talks, eats and so on. This in reality is the aim of yoga, permitting one to meditate while being taken part in worldly pursuits. It suggests that these actions are done with enthusiasm.
Passive meditation is when you sit in one position and allow the sub-conscious mind to take over. Ever experienced silly, irrational thoughts occurring just before you fall asleep? These are the thoughts from your sub-conscious mind and are precursors to the dreams where ridiculous things happen.
Both forms go through the following phases:
4. Effortless Meditation
When effortless meditation begins, the limitless warehouse of knowledge and energy manifest themselves. This is the "sensation" of the infinite and of immortality.
Regular practice leads to attaining the state quite easily and eventually, there is no distinction between practice and activities of daily life. And as one examines the mind it gets more powerful.
Eventually passive meditation becomes unnecessary and one achieves self-realization. At this stage the individual lives totally according to the innnermost feelings which - for lack of a proper vocabulary - is described as divine or spiritual. These emotions have nothing to do with religion or god!
In this circumstance, the self-realized person can live both a spiritual (spiritual as defined by the person himself) and material existence with no conflict. In this state there's a spontaneous and continuous experience of active meditation.
Individuals tend to identify completely with products of perception. For example, we see a stunning landscape and our entire awareness is awed by it. We are completely consumed by that sight an are quite oblivious of the fact that we are experiencing the spectacle. There is no separation of observer (ourselves) and the observed (the landscape). As such, we really experience the landscape? The landscape (object) and the person (subject) become one experience. That is unity consciousness! The unifying experience when all the factors involved lose their individuality.
The external world and the inner world of feelings and emotions become one. Your breath becomes one with the wind and your existence becomes one with the pulsating landscape. Sensory perception is transcended and the creative process is visualized in its fully illuminated form!
The situation is such that the landscape is experienced, not as a distinct entity from the observer. The sensation is as if, "I am as big as this landscape." This entire space is captured by my eye. It is captured in its full and colorful glory." The happiness of the self can now show itself in reaction to the outside objective experience.
When we experience external phenomena as a supplement to our inner emotions and feelings, we cultivate the capability to delight in life. External reality gets painted by our inner, subjective state of being. If live an extroverted life (where the external world determines our internal world), we won't understand the ocean of bliss that exists in the inner operations of the being. This is the most important objective of meditation: to take our consciousness from the external entanglements even for a short time and direct it inwards.
Meditation is something that all of us need to and can experience, yet we can't due to our lifestyle. We're continuously in a state of anxiety since we don't understand ourselves and our own inner nature. We're constantly motivated to become something instead of simply being. If we could just cultivate a unity between what we are and what we desire, then meditation might happen spontaneously.
The knowledge which the majority of us experience remains in the shape of intellectual understanding. It is derived from the rational part of our mind. This is really a type of comparative knowledge and it's not genuine. It helps when we study nature from the point of view of Physics or Chemistry and even Biology (Microbiology), but we can't reduce ourselves to the insignificance of electrons and protons or microbes and fungi.
The misconception is that the original assumptions are generally sufficient in themselves. We never question those original assumptions.
We might likewise experience knowledge in a kind of feeling or sensation. One can emotionally feel the reality and the accuracy of a concept at the same time. Beyond intellectual understanding there is another kind of understanding. This sort of understanding is reached thorugh meditation and -for lack of a better word - we call it instinctive understanding.
Unlike sensible knowledge which tries to establish an idea by reducing knowledge to its constituent parts, intuition directly apprehends the totality. This kind of knowledge depends upon the instinctive knowledge and not on the feelings, which are inclined to colour or twist the real kind of understanding.
For example, if you came across a tiger in the wild, you may not experience any fear because the tiger is not bothered by your presence. But you will rationalize and force yourself to feel fear because you have been indoctrinated into thinking that one should fear a tiger in the wild. Scientists who study animals in the wild know this difference.
Meditation helps us tap into these knowledge centers of the mind taking us in to domains of awareness beyond sensory perception.