Despite the many differences I had with my first husband, perhaps one of the biggest gifts I got out of the marriage was having time to meditate. For the most part while he was out making real estate deals, I was home pursuing inner spiritual realms. Though I spent my mornings typically in spiritual study, after lunch I was deep in meditation for increasingly long periods of time. My meditation practice involved following a series of meditation instructions that a teacher gave me that went through a step by step process allowing me to go deeper and deeper into meditative states.
The steps began with standard meditation training — learning how to sit, how to hold your hands, and how to follow the breath. The next step involved beginning mindfulness training along the lines of observing what came up with your emotions and thoughts. The next step taught a more rigorous process of focusing your attention. At first this involved a candle. But, that shifted to mainly visualizing a small golden light in front of my forehead and asking me to hold my attention there. After I had mastered this, my teacher gave me a series of “seed thoughts.” Seed thoughts can involve a lot of things. The thought can be a word, a series of words, or even a sacred work like a mantra. It is called a “seed” thought because it is meant to seed the quality of that word or words into your consciousness.
At first I was taught to simply repeat the seed thought a number of times out loud or silently to myself. This was a good start, but then I was shown how it is not just enough to repeat a seed thought or mantra. The next step involved penetrating into it. This penetration allowed you to gain a deeper understanding of the seed thought. For example, at the top of this blog you see the words, “I am the Peaceful Self.” In a way, that is a seed thought. You can start by simply saying these words over and over, such as “I am the Peaceful Self. I am the Peaceful Self. I am the Peaceful Self.” That is fine. It concentrates your thought for a bit (if you don’t get distracted and think about other things like, “What’s for dinner?” and then go back into your repetition). But, to get the most out of using any seed thought you need to go farther than this.
At some point, I was shown that with any seed thought, you need to enter into the meaning of it. Using the seed thought “I am the Peaceful Self” for example, you now start to inquire into it. You begin to ask, “Who am I? What is meant by the word peace? What is meant by the word self? Which self? My higher Self, my lower self? Who is the Self really? Am I really being that Self in this moment? Is it possible that I am that Self in every moment?” On and on it goes.
Later in my life I learned that this process is really like the Buddhist practice of what they call analytical meditation. One word, or a short series of words can begin to have profound meaning to you. Once you have mastered to some degree the meaning of the seed thought you are using, the next step is to penetrate even further into it so that you actually become it. As you do this all thoughts now drop away. You are just there being the essence of the seed thought, with no thought at all.
Finally, I was given a succession of seed thoughts to focus on. Each one was given to me were also in a progressive order so they would build upon each other and help me penetrate into a deeper and deeper level. Eventually, the more I did this, the more I entered a type of meditation that my teacher called meditation without seed. That means meditation without a seed thought — no words, no sacred mantra, nothing, or shall I say no – thing. This was different than just sitting in meditation and allowing your mind to go quiet and blank. My mind in these meditations was not in a passive state. My mind was intensely alert and awake, yet at the same time, it was totally quiet. The best way I can describe it is that my mind “was absorbed.”
The more I practiced this kind of meditation, the more I began to notice a strange sensation. In the middle of my brain, I felt both an electrical kind of current and a distinct throbbing. My teacher later told me this was like “pineal gland massage.” From here, my meditations began to reach a new level. Increasingly I found myself being absorbed in a field of light. Eventually, I became the light. Over time (note this process involved a daily practice over a period of two years), I would sit there as that light for up to four hours at a time for months on end. The more I did, truth be told, it seemed like no time at all.
How This All May Relate to You.
For most of my life I would tell people there are two things I couldn’t live without — meditation and music. It is hard for most people, especially in Western cultures, to understand why meditation is so important. Like yoga, which has been watered down in the West to primarily a bunch of physical postures to help one stay flexible and look good; meditation has been watered down as a means to help people relax and perhaps develop some intuition so they will be better at problem solving.
Years after my first marriage ended, I wrote a book called Meditation the Path to Peace. In it I outlined a number of benefits to meditation. At the bottom were the benefits most people aim for centered around relaxation and emotional calm. In the middle were benefits some people aim for having to do with stilling the mind and cultivating some intuition. At the top were benefits very few people aim for focused on radically rooting out the false sense of ego so that one can realize the Self.
Just as there is nothing wrong with yoga postures to stay flexible and look good, there is nothing wrong with meditation for the sake of relaxation and cultivating the intuition. The problem is when we look at yoga and mediation only in these ways, they become watered down versions of what yoga and meditation can really do for us. Unfortunately, they also take us away from the central purpose they are both about, which involves the radical transformation of self into Self. So why are these deeply meaningful and spiritual practices being so watered down? One of the reasons is we live in an overall cultural environment that fails to support serious spiritual practice. But, only if we recognize this is happening can we see the necessity for entering into deeper work.
Yoga and meditation are not the only places where we find spiritual practices being distorted and watered down. As a child and teenager I found out that most Christian teachings are as well. Fortunately for me, my experience of Christianity tended to be more positive than most people’s. I did not see Jesus as a man dying on a cross to save the sins of the world. Jesus was the friend I talked to on a regular basis. He was a comfort. He was love. Even as a teenager I came to understand that the person who died on the cross was not a man trying to save me because I was a bad kid. He was trying to reveal to me the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.” The Way he was showing me was how to walk the path of love! The Truth he was revealing was how to transcend my ego and find the Self. The Life he was giving me was recognition of fact that life is always eternal, and you discover this when you know who you really are. In short, Jesus was showing me the “Christ in you, the hope of glory” as St. Paul called it. Though I didn’t understand it fully until I was in my twenties, Jesus was pointing me towards the mystical path leading you towards a deeper realization of the Christ in you, or the Self. To discover that Christ within meditation plays an essential role.
Another area where meditation and spiritual practice have been watered down is in the world of science. Here we discover that science has mostly turned into scientism. Scientism involves filtering the data and phenomena one is exposed to through one’s own dogma and beliefs. Like other “isms anytime something does not fit into your already made up mind set, it is discounted or ignored. The mind set scientism subscribes to is known as the materialistic paradigm. This world view subscribes to the belief that humans are fundamentally selfish. Except for humans everything else in the universe is essentially unconscious making it all open to exploitation. In this world view there are no real consequences to our actions, unless of course you upset social norms and get thrown into the legal system. The goal then is to subvert the legal system so you can get away with as much as you want. As for any data or phenomena that might prove the scientism world view wrong? It is all discounted as a brain blip, a piece of undigested food, a chemical reaction, and any sane or truly “intelligent” person will just ignore it.
But, especially when you meditate and open up your senses, you will experience phenomena scientism wants to discount or not talk about. I remember a conversation, for instance, I had with my boyfriend during my first year of college at Michigan State University. We were discussing Einstein’s theory of relativity. He was telling me that nothing could go faster than the speed of light. I was getting frustrated with him and suddenly I blurted out, “That’s because Einstein knows nothing yet about the speed of thought.” Fortunately, later in my life I would actually interview on my radio program and learn about a number of scientists who did consider data and phenomena that scientism does not. Some of these leaders included Rupert Sheldrake, Amit Goswami, David Boehm, Michael Talbot, Lynn McTaggert, Dean Raddin, Nassim Harriman, Matthieu Ricard, Dr. Martin Seligman and others. But, apart from leaders like these who are willing to consider spiritual data and phenomena, those who subscribe to scientism will keep their blinders on.
A few areas that did seem more open to meditation and mystical phenomena were the New Age and New Thought movements. Already by age 12 I had dived into what are often considered New Age topics including astrology, Tarot, crystals, channeling, chakras and more. When I was just a teenager all these topics seemed more enthralling to me. As I got into my 20’s I began to see holes in some of the theories and beliefs. I didn’t discount them (and I still don’t), I just started to see in this realm there was a lot of fuzzy thought. Too often people did not want to question their beliefs. But, by questioning a belief you don’t have to give that belief up. You just learn to go deeper into it. That is meditation. You continue to peel the layers of the onion off. I couldn’t understand why so many friends I had in New Age circles were afraid to dive deeper. Regardless, deeper is where I had to go.
As for the New Thought movement? Here I felt I was getting a little closer to where my deeper spiritual practice was ready to take me. One of the biggest values of this movement comes from the focus on the power of positive thinking. Learning to think positive is vital. And, when you do so you are demonstrating mastery over thought, which requires discipline and a certain level of meditation. But, on a deeper spiritual path this is not enough. True meditation practice goes beyond thought. And, the deeper you go the more you don’t just mouth the idea of the Oneness of everything, the more you live it. To live that Oneness requires dismantling, the ego.
For example, in New Thought circles they love to talk about how you created your reality. But, who are you? Your ego and all it’s selfish tendencies? Or, something much, much more? Later in my life I would work on a Ph.D. dissertation that involved in part looking at spiritual materialism. As mentioned in the Swept Away post, too much modern day spirituality is only another attempt of the ego to not have to let go of itself. The ego plays tricks on us and tries to distract us from the place a deeper meditation practice will take us to where basically you discover you are not you! You are YOU!
In light of the above I suggest the following. Yes, there is something positive to yoga postures. But, go deeper and discover real yoga. Yes, meditation is beneficial to help you relax your nervous system and emotions. But, go deeper and discover where meditation can really lead you. Yes, it is helpful to know something about science and the scientific method. But, go deeper than the materialistic paradigm and stop replacing science with scientism. Yes, though you may be inclined to discount it, there are a lot of benefits to the primary interests of the New Age movement. Just don’t get caught up in blind belief, and add some more rigorous thought and humility to any New Age approach. Finally, yes! The New Thought movement is also highly valuale. It is good to learn about the power of positive thinking. It is true certain negative thoughts and emotions can cause you to have a more difficult life. But, don’t use that approach as a way to simply over-ride difficult feelings. They too have something to teach you. And, stop believing you are at the center of the universe and it is here only to say “yes” to you! That is the height of selfishness, and inflates the ego. The universe (which you are) is here to support you, but it may also dismantle “you” through a radical transformation and humbling of your ego, so you no longer act out of selfishness where you think the universe has nothing better to do than simply reinforce your incessant needs and greeds.
In conclusion, when you understand that there is a lot more to the spiritual path than what these systems (or their distortions) have to offer, you free yourself up. You begin to gravitate with more humility to true spiritual teachers and true spiritual wisdom. Better yet, you begin to take more joy in the loss of your ego, than in the reinforcement of it. Your life moves more and more in the direction of a complete surrender of the ego, which you do through a joyful giving and a loving Oneness. All of this is what my meditation practice began to make we aware of. Though as I was soon to discover, there was a lot more realization to come.