There are lots of reasons people meditate. They sit and look inside for better health, clear thinking, success and creativity. Recently I was reading a popular Buddhist magazine. Inside was an article by a famous Buddhist nun listing five reasons to meditate, including clear seeing, attention, steadfastness, courage and "no big deal" (meaning to be able to let go). After reflecting on the article, I realized that I did not agree with any of her reasons. In fact I felt clear seeing, attention, steadfastness, courage and no big deal were more reasons to go to boot camp and join the Marines than reasons to sit every day and explore meditation.
During these days I had the opportunity to meet another respected Buddhist teacher, James Baraz, one of the founders of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California. I told James my reaction to reading this Buddhist magazine and he assured me that this teacher and most Buddhists were not just in their heads, but had a heartfelt component to their teachings as well. I asked him why he meditates. He smiled and said, "Wow." As the answer began to form from his heart, I knew immediately that he knew the true secret why we take so much time of our day and our lives to meditate. We meditate because of the joy! In fact, James has written an important book in American Buddhism called Awakening Joy. He admitted it is important to convey the importance of joy when the first noble truth in Buddhism is, "There is suffering in life." Many people who meditate believe that focusing on suffering includes suffering during the time they spend sitting.
Many meditators think the only way to liberation is by going through their pain, feeling their brokenness. There is a whole system of thought about the dark nights of the soul. In this system, feeling good, enjoying life, embracing love is often seen as superficial, denying one's shadow, avoiding one's suffering. From the dark side, finding the light is suspect. How can one say they have felt all pain? What is ironic is that many meditators, followers of Eastern religion and New Age thought were born Christians or Jews who left the faith of their origin because it was too much about suffering, sin, guilt and not enough about love and joy.
The idea that one has to fall apart before coming together in a new way reminds me of the same conversation with different words I heard back in the 1970s. During this time I went through primal therapy and became a primal therapist. The belief was if we cried and screamed enough we would let go of our primal pain and be free. After seeing people crying and screaming for years, including beginning to have memories of past lives to feel, cry and scream about, my beliefs change. Suffering and feeling one's pain does not necessarily lead to freedom, equilibrium, liberation. In 1975 I wrote a book called The Magical Child Within You, about remembering the playful inner child, our innocence, trust and the magic of life. No amount of shadow watching brings back our magical child. Our magical child must be embraced directly for him or her to be rediscovered.
Today I find myself responding the same to the present conversation about the reason why we meditate. The magical child, our great heart, the deep river of inner peace, the ocean of our beautiful ground of being must be embraced and received directly. This is why we meditate. Meditation calms the mind, opens the heart. The fears, desires and attachments of our personality lighten as we sit with simple awareness. Meditation purifies the awareness of our worldly selves bringing us to our heart and innocence. Meditation carries us into a great nakedness, simplicity, an emptiness of love. This love spreads throughout our beings, healing our separateness from our hearts and the hearts of one another.
The reason why I meditate is to know God! This is the great love that awaits us in the vastness of our heart. I offer all my busyness, fear and thought as I sit and open to the inner sanctuary, the expansive silence of my heart. I practice clear seeing, attention, being steadfast to concentrate and receive the immense love. In our world, it takes courage to talk about, no less embrace, God. It takes courage to find the humility to open to the vast presence and at times infinitely sweet nectar inside of us and the world surrounding us. During meditation we see through our thoughts, let go of fear, surrender suffering as we receive our true nature, our Buddha nature, Christ light, our heart essence. The words can be interchanged because religion ends and God begins the moment we enter our heart.
Meditation is the direct experience of knowing behind the clouds is a brilliant sun. The reason we meditate is wow! There is a home inside of us which no one and nothing can take away. This home is ours. It is our soul, our wow. Most of us never imagined we would find something so incredible, bringing our awareness to such a lightness of being, clarity, a wonder full of presence, of eternity. This wow is a palace of blinding light. It calls for many small and large deaths of our ego, our self importance, as we open to and receive this place of complete acceptance, no judgment. Wow and we untangle inside, dissolve and expand beyond our small self. Wow, we are free of our fear, our story, as we absorb the unending awareness of golden realms inside of us. The golden self, the no self, the true self is the wow which reminds us to sit on clear days and stormy days. Wow, there is so much joy to feed our nerves, our hearts and offer to the hearts of those around us. This is why we look forward to silence, retreat and time to simply be. This is why we meditate. Every time we sit, we are becoming anchors for the truth of wow in the world. And who can say that their world and the world in general cannot use some wow to relieve all suffering?
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