Saturday, November 19, 2005

Bibliomantic Quote of the Day

Sometimes when I am feeling uninspired, I will open a book I like to some random page and read whatever I find there. I call this process bibliomancy--I'm sure I didn't invent the word or the practice. Today's book is The Simple Feeling of Being by Ken Wilber, a thematic collection of quotes from his published works.

From Collected Works 4: "Stages of Meditation," pages 357-58.

When you practice meditation, one of the first things you realize is that your mind--and your life, for that matter--is dominated by largely subconscious verbal chatter. You are always talking to yourself. And so, as they start to meditate, many people are stunned by how much junk starts running through their awareness. They find that thoughts, images, fantasies, notions, ideas, concepts virtually dominate their awareness. They realize that these notions have had a much more profound influence on their lives that they ever thought.

In any case, initial meditation experiences are like being at the movies. You sit and watch all these fantasies and concepts parade by, in front of your awareness. But the whole point is that you are finally becoming aware of them. You are looking at them impartially and without judgment. You just watch them go by, the same as you watch clouds float by in the sky. They come, they go. No praise, no condemnation, no judgment--just "bare witnessing." If you judge your thoughts, if you get caught up in them, then you can't transcend them. You can't find higher or subtler dimensions of your own being. So you sit in meditation, and you simply "witness" what is going on in your mind. You let the monkey mind do what it wants, and you simply watch.

And what happens is, because you impartially witness these thoughts, fantasies, notions, and images, you start to become free of their unconscious influence. You are looking at them, so you are not using them to look at the world. Therefore you become, to a certain extent, free of them. And you become free of the separate self-sense that depended on them. In other words, you start to become free of the ego.

The quote continues for a couple of more paragraphs, providing a glimpse of the higher-order consciousness--nondual awareness--that will eventually develop. Most of us will not have more than a brief taste of that state in our lifetimes.

My practice has been frustrating lately, so this quote comes as a reminder of why I sit and that sitting is about the process, not the results.

One of the key points from this passage is the idea that we develop, through meditation, the power to witness our thoughts rather than having them dictate our consciousness. Possessing an observer self, that part of consciousness that stands behind our thoughts and witnesses them as they come up and dissipate, is crucial to nearly all higher-level psychological work we will ever do. If we cannot take a step back from ourselves and witness our thoughts, actions, and behaviors, we do not possess the freedom to change them.

I have been working with my inner critic for the past several months. Of all the parts of myself I have tried to work with, the critic is the toughest. As an introject, it wormed its way into my life at a very young age, before I had the rational thought processes to question it.

Sitting has helped me hear the voice of my critic as a distinct voice. That is why I sit--to know myself better, to witness and release whatever comes up. Most importantly, sitting allows me to accept whatever comes up as a part of who I am. Attachment and rejection only feed the energy of the thing, whatever it is, but pure acceptance reduces the charge it might carry.

The more I sit, the quieter my mind becomes.

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