The Secret to Effortless Meditation

*This is an extended & revised version of an earlier article I wrote back in 2015

The Art of Effortless Meditation

We often approach meditation with a purely utilitarian mindset; we like the way it feels at the end. But meditation, in both eastern and western traditions, wasn’t originally prescribed as a means of intoxication but rather as a window toward self-transcendence and unity with the Godhead of which intoxication was a byproduct. Meditation as medication, as is often used nowadays, will always fall short of its intended function unless the practitioner is equipped with a spiritual understanding of the essence of meditation. My goal is to present the essentials of meditation without going into their traditional & psychological origins so that we can start meditating without worrying too about the symbolic aspects of various methods of meditation, for variation in method serves no purpose other than addressing the diversity of individual temperaments.

Understanding the essence of meditation is so important to the practice that its acquisition can save the practitioner years of futile time and effort: Meditation is possible only with the right intellectual-spiritual posture. Most meditation enthusiasts often give the physical posture priority over the intellectual posture. Taking into account the three dimensional reality of human being, i.e. physical-mental-spiritual, it is crucial we adopt the appropriate posture in all the three in order to enjoy the full fruits of meditation. Our aim here is to introduce the intellectual posture, or mental attitude, necessary for the practice of meditation.

Human beings are essentially goal-oriented, seeking an end of some kind sometimes actively and sometimes passively. We are goal-oriented because to be human means to be engaged in the world in one way or another, and engagement is the interplay of means and ends. Almost everything we do on a daily basis, from our most serious vocations to the most mundane routines, is for our minds a movement from point A to point B: We wash the dishes to have clean dishes; we eat because we are hungry; we work to serve some cause or just pay the bills, etc. We can hardly say that any of these activities are ends in themselves. In other words, as human beings we are always already oriented toward an end that transcends the given present. To be oriented-outside-oneself is so tied to the essence of human existence that if we won’t initiate a task with no conceivable end in view.

The problem with most failed attempts at meditation is that we look at it as just another task, as another human activity to be added to the timeline of our daily routines. We sit to meditate with the intention of finding ourselves at a point B that is better than point A, and in thinking this way we are always anticipating an end point that lies further in time. This mindset is entangled to a feeling of anticipation which is in principle contrary to the nature of meditative state. This looking and seeking out is the very thing that keeps us from experiencing the meditative state which is in fact our natural and permanent state, the state upon which our individuality with the coating of personality is superimposed.

This end-seeking mindset must change or else we won’t get far in meditation. Why? Because meditation is NOT a human activity but lack thereof. Meditation is in its essence a no-task: It is the practice of temporary abstinence from goal-oriented consciousness. Once we drop from all participation in this intentional consciousness we will instantly find ourselves in deep meditation, that is, we are dehumanized. Entering a sacred place we take our shoes off at the door; we can enter the meditative state only if we take off our human disguise at the entrance.

To try to meditate is not to meditate

Think of consciousness as an ocean. When the surface is calm it is in its meditative mode; when the surface is turbulent it is in its active mode which compares to our default, goal-oriented, human mode. If we want to move around in this ocean we have to paddle or swim, which is the only way of moving in it. But if we want to experience the calm, meditative mode of the ocean, no amount of swimming or paddling can help us. Trying to relax the mind by effort is like trying to calm the disturbed surface of a pond by pressing down on its waves.

Correct meditation must be effortless; our only effort should be before meditation, that is, to sit for it

We should not look at meditation as something that we do. Meditation is something that happens when we don’t do anything. Meditation is never made happen; it happens when we stop trying to make things happen or make them don’t happen.  

A fundamental mistake in the practice of meditation is anticipating a thoughtless state. Look at a very clam ocean; look closer and you will see there are always subtle waves still present. There is no ocean without wavy surface, and in much the same way there is no state of consciousness without something of which it is conscious. As waves belong to the nature of ocean, thoughts belong to the nature of consciousness.

What distinguishes the meditative consciousness from the active consciousness is our detachment from the contents as opposed to reacting to or engaging in them. If we start the meditation thinking we are at point A moving toward point B we have already introduced a preference, a sinkhole if you will, within consciousness; we have made a task out of it. Setting up a goal as necessary as it is in human reality is counterproductive to meditation; it produces an inhomogeneity in consciousness whereas the meditative state coincides with a perfectly homogeneous state of consciousness. To meditate is to refuse to have a goal; it is a state of goallessness. There are no points A and B; there is only consciousness; It has no before and after, no here and there.

It is crucial that we do not impose anything on consciousness, and that includes imposing the idea of goallessness and making a goal out of it. It will be difficult at first because we are by default task managers, making a task out of everything. Do not try to suppress this default mode; instead step back and stay aware of the impulse without aiming at its assassination. (I have added a practice at the end to deal with this impulse.)

During meditation: Have no aim, no goal, no expectation and anticipation. Pretend there is nowhere to be and nothing to do because there is nothing left undone in the whole world.  

The beginning challenge, if at all, of not engaging in the impulse will last for only a week if we practice everyday. The fist glimpse of what lies beyond will by itself keep us hooked forever, but do not anticipate anything; think of meditation as a safe and bottomless free fall in which gravity does all the work. Whatever comes, including thoughts and emotions, refrain from looking at them as good or bad, as something that should or should not be there.

Practice: When you meditate there are usually some natural sounds around, like the wind, rain, chirping of birds, etc. Ordinarily when we meditate we never mind these sounds and some people even find them helpful for meditation. Now, when you are meditating and thoughts arise view them as natural sounds in the environment, as something there in nature (this is actually true; it only appears that we own them.)

Treat your thoughts and the natural sounds of the environment on equal footing. Thoughts become problematic because we are possessive about them; we identify with them, and hence impose judgment and expectations on them. Imagine the thoughts to be sounds coming from the surrounding nature; they are just hanging there having nothing to do with you. Even if they are accompanied by emotions just be aware of the emotion as another species of natural sounds out there in the world; don’t become possessive; they have nothing to do with you. After all, no emotion or thought has ever hurt us on its own and without our permission.

Nothing has anything to do with the real you

Our possessiveness towards thoughts and emotions are acquired and not inborn. Thoughts and emotions disturb us only as long as we see them as disturbances, even more so as our possessions. By the practice of goalless meditation you will see that these seemingly internal disturbances will recede into the background where other natural sounds belong.

Once we become comfortable with that homogeneous state of consciousness where we are no more possessive of anything, and hence no more judgmental and existentially lacking, then our daily lives and relationships will naturally and without effort manifest the paradise and bliss we always sought elsewhere outside ourselves. When we become possessive towards our loved ones, included among them are our own thoughts and emotions, we always try to control or change them which will make us more inhomogeneous, hence lacking and unhappy. What we hope to learn from this goalless meditation is not that we shouldn’t be possessive; the only goal is to realize that we can never possess even if we wanted to.

The inner bliss liberates but the outsourced and manufactured happiness corrupts

During meditation: The only goal is to realize that there is no goal. The only point is to see that we are the point.  

The deepest level of this meditation which may take months to attain is the point in which the “I” realizes, i.e. recognizes, that it were the pure transcendental witness all along, the witness standing at the edge of a totality that contains the mind, body, ego and personality, and everything it thought it were: You are that transcendental witness.

You are meditation Itself

I Am Meditation

Meditation is not about having a pleasant, calming experience; it is about being fully open to the richness of experience as such. Meditation is the state of least resistance; it is the Tabula Rasa on which our individuality with the coating of personality is projected. I am not what is projected; I am the screen. I am meditation itself.

State of Mind

Our moods and mental states are real only as long as we attend to them. So it is not good to dwell on them, let alone getting caught up in their analysis. Sometimes it is better to simply ignore them instead of looking into them seeking a cause or solution. It is the nature of our consciousness to become identified with the state toward which it looks.

The more we zoom in on a state the more it stands out, and there is no limit to its complexity. In fact zooming in on a state, which begins by first entertaining its idea, brings that state into existence, from potentiality into actuality. So, the quality of our lives depends only on our overall orientation toward reality and not what we do with it. All we need to do is turn the gaze of consciousness toward the state of bliss, or hell if you please; this is very similar to the way we can bring the eye focus on an object by simply turning away from everything else and withdrawing our attention from them. This is easily achieved by continuous practice in which we have to keep bringing our focus back on a desirable state.

Of course in the beginning the mind tends to scatter and steal away our focus but practice makes it easier and finally attainable where we become identified with that state and it becomes a permanent station for us. This is really the simplest thing in the world because it requires no action at all and is accessible at all times and regardless of outward circumstances. We should see that there exists nothing but the mind and that the mind is nothing but emptiness.

How To Meditate

The Art of Effortless Meditation

We often approach meditation with a purely utilitarian mindset; we like the way it feels. But meditation, in both eastern and western traditions, wasn’t originally designed as a means of intoxication but rather as a window toward self-transcendence and unity with the Godhead. Meditation as medication, as is often used, will always fall short of its intended function unless the practitioner is equipped with a spiritual understanding of what meditation really is. My goal is to present the essentials of meditation without going into their psychological origins so that we can start meditating without worrying about the symbolic aspects of meditation; these aspects will depend on the individual temperament.

Understanding the essence of meditation is so important that its acquisition can save the practitioner years of futile time and effort: Meditation is possible only with the right posture; but often we only take care of the physical posture while ignoring the intellectual posture. Unless these two complement one another we cannot enjoy the full fruits of meditation. Our aim here is to introduce the intellectual posture, or mental attitude, necessary for the practice of meditation.

Human beings are essentially goal-oriented, some actively and some passively. We are goal-oriented because to be human means to be engaged in the world in one way or another, and engagement is the interplay of means and ends. Almost everything we do on a daily basis, our jobs and routines, is for our minds a movement from point A to point B: We wash the dishes to have clean dishes; we eat because we are hungry; we work to pay the bills, etc. We can hardly say that any of these activities are ends in themselves. In other words, we are always oriented toward an end, often mindless, and if the end didn’t have anything for us we would not engage in the task.

The problem with most failed attempts at meditation is that we look at it as just another task, another human activity to be added to the timeline of our routines. We sit to meditate and our goal is to find ourselves in a point B that is better than point A, always looking out for an end point that lies further in time. This mindset must change or else we won’t get far in meditation. Why? Because meditation is NOT a human activity but lack thereof. Meditation is by definition a no-task: It is the practice of temporary abstinence from goal-oriented consciousness.

The best analogy that comes to my mind is this: Think of consciousness as an ocean. When the surface is calm it is in meditative mode; when the surface is wavy it is in active mode which is our everyday, goal-oriented, human mode. If we want to go somewhere on this ocean we have to paddle or swim, which is the only way of moving in it. But if we want to experience the calm, meditative mode of the ocean, no amount of swimming or paddling can help us. Trying to relax the mind by effort is like trying to calm the disturbed surface of a pond by pressing down on its waves.

Correct meditation must be effortless; our only effort should be before meditation, that is to sit for it.

We should not understand meditation as something that we do. Meditation is something that happens when we don’t do anything. Meditation is never made happen; it happens when we stop trying to make things happen or don’t happen.  

A fundamental mistake in the practice of meditation is expecting a thoughtless state. Look at a very clam ocean; look closer and you will see there are tiny waves still present. There is no ocean without wavy surface, and in much the same way there is no state of consciousness without something of which it is conscious. As waves belong to the nature of ocean, thoughts belong to the nature of consciousness.

What distinguishes the meditative consciousness from the active consciousness is our detachment from  the content rather than reaction to it. If we start the meditation thinking we are at point A moving toward point B we have already introduced a preference, a sinkhole, within consciousness; we have made a task out of it. To meditate is to refuse to have a goal; it is a state of goallessness. There are no points A and B; there is only consciousness; It has no before and after, no here and there.

It is crucial that we do not impose anything on consciousness, especially the idea of goallessness and making a goal out of it. It will be difficult at first because we are by default task managers, making a task out of everything. Do not try to suppress this default mode; instead step back and stay aware of the impulse without aiming at its assassination 🙂 (I have added a practice at the end to deal with this impulse.)

During meditation: Have no aim, no goal, no expectation and anticipation. Pretend there is nowhere to be and nothing to do because there is nothing left undone in the world.  

The beginning challenge, if at all, of not engaging in the impulse will last only for a week if we practice everyday. The fist glimpse of what lies beyond will by itself keep us hooked forever, but do not anticipate anything; think of meditation as a safe free fall in which gravity does all the work. Whatever comes, including thoughts and emotions, refrain from looking at them as good or bad, as something that should or should not to be there.

Practice: When you meditate there are usually some natural sounds around, like the wind, rain, chirping of birds, etc. We never mind these sounds and some people even find them helpful for meditation. Now, when you are meditating and thoughts arise view them as natural sounds in the environment, as something there in nature (this is actually true; it only appears that we own them because of a slight misunderstanding.)

Treat your thoughts and the natural sounds of the environment on equal footing. Thoughts become problematic because we are possessive about them, we identify with them, and hence impose expectations on them. Imagine the thoughts to be sounds coming from the surrounding nature; they are just hanging there having nothing to do with you. Even if they are accompanied by emotions just be aware of the emotion as another species of natural sounds out there in the world; don’t become possessive. After all, no emotion or thought has ever hurt us on its own and without our permission.

Our possessiveness towards thoughts and emotions are acquired and not inborn. Thoughts and emotions disturb us as long as we see them as our possessions. By the practice of goalless meditation you will see that these seemingly internal disturbances will recede into the background where other natural sounds belong.

Once we learn to remain in that zone of consciousness where we are no more possessive of anything, and hence no more judgmental and existentially lacking, then our daily lives and relationships will turn into the lost paradise. We always try to change our loved ones, including our thoughts and emotions, when we become possessive towards them. What we hope to learn from this goalless meditation is not that we shouldn’t be possessive; the only goal is to realize that we can never possess even if we wanted to.

During meditation: The only goal is to realize that there is no goal. The only point is to see that we are the point.  

The deepest level of this meditation which may take months or years to attain is the point in which the “I” realizes that it is the pure transcendental witness standing at the edge of a totality that contains the mind, body, ego and personality, and everything it thought it were: You are that transcendental witness.

The Secret of Transformation

The secret is this: You are what you consider yourself to be.

Full realization of this secret brings about salvation, namely liberation par excellence.

See that what and who you think you are is what you have continuously accepted yourself to be. It is through repetitive acceptance that you form an idea of your identity and status. Even the hardest fact, that you are a human being, is considered a fact because we have accepted it to be a fact and a hard one: We have accepted that we are what we are told to be; we have accepted that what people say counts; we have accepted that we don’t know the truth; we have accepted that there was a history, to us and to the world, the the contents of memory is about us, that there are others who know better, that we are fundamentally ignorant and sinner, that religion sucks and science knows better, or science sucks and religion knows better, etc; but all of these have the status and importance that we give to them; it is us who make them what they are and accept them to be our masters or our slaves. We can strongly believe that the earth is flat and get away with it living a life as if the earth were truly flat.

Every fact before us is a fact precisely because we have accepted it to be a fact, and we have accepted that there is such a thing as fact, something existing independently of what we think and accept; but this itself is something we have accepted!

If we have become what we are because we have thought ourselves to be that by continuous acceptance under that pressure of mass belief which is itself something accepted by us to represent a reality to which to conform, then the only way back to our original state of absolute liberation is a continuous repetition of the opposite propositions. The secret is that by doing so we actually become that, since we have become what we are now precisely because we have kept telling ourselves that we are it.

Tell yourself day and night: I am absolutely free and full of bliss; I am not bound or touched by anything. I am pure and perfect. There is nothing that I desire or hate, for I am the supreme witness of all things. The world and the mind are only the objects of my perception; none of them has any affect on me, no more that a light shining on filth can itself become filthy. You are that light, shining on all things and making them appear, yet itself is not touched or bound by anything.

Repeat and repeat: I am pure, perfect, and free and full of bliss.

After a while you will see the miracle of this secret: You will become what you have kept telling yourself to be. Strong conviction is the sole creative force. If you keep believing yourself to be something without doubt or interruption, then your body and environment will have to change themselves so to conform to this new condition, and they do so by their own accord; you only need to do the believing. Thus, believe yourself to be free and perfect even by pretending yourself to be so; pretend so much and so consistently that your mind and body will accept it at last; then you will see that you are actually perfect and free, pure and blissful. At the end, and this is promised, you will realize that you are always free, pure, and perfect all along and from the very beginning; you were only told otherwise all your life and you had simply accepted it as you real condition. That you can become actually free and perfect is not because pretending can create a reality; your freedom and perfection is the reality and the only reality; your believing and pretending is only a washing out the lies and impurities that we had accepted as belonging to us. We have also accepted that change is difficult; if you want to change, then just change; just be the new person, think like him/her; act and react like him/her; go to be, wake up, and walk like him/her; just be what you want to be. How do you think people change? They learn to accept the new paradigms. Practice doesn’t make perfect; it makes confident. The reason we are good at something is because we have done it so many times that we can’t see ourselves screwing it up; we have accepted that if we have succeeded a thousand times, then we can succeed one more time, and this makes us succeed. If I meditate better now than a year ago it is because I see and accept myself as a person with a year of experience in meditation, with the confidence of an experienced person. Give this a shot: Next time you sit to meditate consider yourself to be sage who has meditated for years; approach meditation as if it is nothing to you, as if it is the most natural thing, like an instinct; just sit and be calm without even thinking or trying to be calm. Just be that sage or saint; pretend to have that kind of confidence; don’t even allow in the thought that you may fail or succeed; do you ever think of failure to change the gear after you have driven your car for years! No; thus think of meditation the same; pretend to be that meditating sage and see how your new confidence, though induced, actually makes your meditation much better. Why not have the full acceptance and confidence from the very beginning. Remember that what is is what we have accepted to be.

Repeat and repeat: I am pure, perfect, and free and full of bliss.