Spiritual Matters

Spiritual Matters

I am getting tired of reading more spiritual books. Not that there aren’t a lot of great books out there, and a lot of good spiritual groups. The problem, however, is that I often miss what the book or teacher is saying and only get part of the message (often just the part that I want to acknowledge at the time). Also, some books and teachers contradict each other.

I’d like to discuss here a few of the assumptions I often hear people say and which many people have and which, I believe, hold them back in their growth.

First, if all the people who think meditation means your mind stops and becomes empty and silent, then they have unachievable expectations. For some reason we Westerners have got the impression that if our mind is creating thoughts, we’re “not doing it right.” Not so. The entire purpose of the mind is to generate thoughts, and you’re going to always (I hope) have them.

Yes, meditation does quiet the mind and there ARE times where the mind stops. These moments are timeless in one sense, but in a real world sense may only last for seconds. As your awareness deepens through meditation work, you begin to be more and more aware of the space between your thoughts and less caught up in your thoughts. You become the watcher of yourself (and everything else) and that makes it SEEM as if your mind is much quieter.

What, then, are thoughts in meditation and why do they happen? Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation Movement, has a great way of explaining this. When a person meditates and the brain wave patterns slow into those of deep meditation, the meditator reaches levels of the nervous system where many stresses are held. As the meditative state dislodges these stresses so they may be released, they bubble to the surface of your awareness. So a meditation where there are a lot of thoughts is not a failed meditation. It is, rather, a meditation in which a lot of stresses are released.

Really only two things can happen in meditation. The meditator transcends thought and has a timeless moment, or he/she is busy dislodging those pesky stresses in the nervous system. The only mistake I can make is to get involved in my thoughts and not do my technique when I catch myself wrapped up in my thoughts This is one reason why I continuously tell myself to let whatever happens be okay (including having a busy mind during meditation).

Another misconception I often notice that people entertain is in regards to the nature of enlightenment. Enlightenment does not mean a loss of desire to be in the world or to have goals or to laugh or cry or get angry or be sad or be attracted by the opposite sex (or whatever). These are all normal human feelings and urges and have nothing to do with who we really are. It also doesn’t mean I become a hermit or necessarily more religious or even more “spiritual”, or that everything I do is “right”, or that I know things other people don’t know or that I have amazing powers.

In my opinion, the real essence of what we refer to as enlightenment is a state of not being attached to outcomes, which means I do not suffer when “what is” is different than what I thought it would or should be. This does not mean I cannot desire an outcome in a given situation—it means I am not attached to the outcome. A big difference. Being attached means if the outcome is different than what I want, I suffer. Being non- attached means if the outcome is different than what I wanted, I feel fine anyway. This means I have changed my attachments, the outcomes I am addicted to, to preferences. I prefer a certain outcome, but my ability to be happy and peaceful inside is not related to the outcome.

Let me be really clear, someone who is enlightened still has problems. He or she may get sick (many enlightened masters have died of cancer, heart attacks, and so on). He may get angry or sad. He may like certain people more than others. He is still human, with all the range of human experience—except the suffering part, because he is not attached to the outcome in any given situation. So those of you who are looking for a life with no problems, you’re on the wrong planet. As someone said to me the other day, when I asked him what it was like to be on the top of the heap, “Lady, no matter where you are on the heap, it’s one thing after another.” You will always have problems. The telephone company will overcharge you. The toilet will overflow. You will bump your head on the cupboard. Your stock will go down. The bread will grow mould on it. Things you love will end. Things you wanted will not be yours. People you love will die. You will die. That’s life. The difference is in how I handle these things. Will I choose to do what I can but ultimately, when I’ve done what I can, to just watch and let it be okay? Or will I put myself through a lot of suffering? So what’s the solution here? What’s the deciding factor? I think it is awareness. The more I am aware of what is happening, the more I am able to step back and watch from another perspective, a higher spot on the mountain, so to speak, the more I will be reluctant to put myself through unnecessary suffering. The more I am caught up in what is happening, the more likely I am to run my suffering programs. It’s a decision I can make, but one I probably will not make until I have the awareness to see what’s happening. That’s where meditation comes in, because it increases my awareness, expands my awareness. It takes me to the place where I can watch without being caught up in whatever is happening.

All the other benefits people report: happiness, peace, a clearer mind, healing of emotional traumas, overcoming depression, anger, anxiety, lower stress, and so on—are all the product of having more awareness. People don’t do their suffering act over what is happening to them because they now can see what a stupid waste it is to do so, because they’re looking now from a different perspective. I prefer a certain outcome, but my ability to be happy and peaceful inside is not related to the outcome.

Nicole Renaud

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Nicole Renaud

Nicole Renaud

English, French and German B.A. (USA), M.Couns & H.S.(Australia), PACFA Adv. Dip. Gestalt Therapie, GANZ

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