*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 thought I was a man and I sought the other half in a woman. But I had to break to realize that I were not a man but an enclosure. What I perceived as woman was nothing but what I had negated in the Self. The seeking was the gradual breaking, and when the vessel broke the inner and outer space were realized to be one indivisible space only imagined to be divided. My liberation was in my annihilation, and woman was nothing but a figment of my imagination.
We approached the Giver of States in awe and reverence seeking a glimpse of that burning and annihilating ecstasy. Hearing our footsteps a voice came from the Throne of the Void, infinitely near and infinitely far from our ears, “In my perfect justice no state is dispensed in vain.”
“Tell us our Lord, what constitutes your perfect justice?”
From behind Its psychedelic veil our Shaykh spoke thus: “In my perfect justice that which persists in existence subsists in non-existence and that which persists in non-existence subsists in existence.”
“Seek annihilation by not seeking at all, for I am not found by seeking but by seeing, a seeing stripped of all looking, by pure witnessing. The seeing that finds my face annihilates the seeing that finds my trace.”
“Who art thou who dwells in the heart of the Void?”
“My essence is my face and my names are my trace. On whosoever I cast my piercing glance, whosoever has witnessed my Jamaal and blinding brilliance, is at once annihilated in its temporality and reintegrated in my eternity. That is Fanaa, the state I bestow upon my dearest folks.”
Writing has not come easily to me within the past couple of years. I went straight from writer’s diarrhea to a total, painful writer’s constipation. There have been sudden bursts of ideas but none has been able to reach the mother egg so far. This consciousness, this mass grave of ideas in which everything that is and was has been laying from the days of yore where my father was my mother, this unbroken and unbreakable symmetry in which everything seems to be eternally disintegrated and reintegrated, this infinite ocean with its ever receding horizon must have swallowed my aimlessly drifting raft.
There is an uprising in the soul of a sensitive spirit; a gnawing dissent and discontent has crept into the hearts of the people of the city of the heart; these men and woman have quantum jumped between the two extremes of joy and sorrow without ever seeing the light of the golden mean. When the pendulum of the heart crosses the invisible line into the eternal chaos, when the spiritual asymmetry of irregular polygons propagates into mental obsession and physical compulsion, our only savior is the unmoved mover, the origin. A person of this type must experience the origin: he must experience the birth of meaning.
Behind the scenes of religion the prophet pulled me over to the water cooler and whispered into my ears, “To surrender is to be open to meaning.”
Every being strives to return to the lost homogeneity of its primordial state. The collective form of this strife is found in the phenomenon of history and its singular form in the phenomenon of the individual person. For humans, the closest glimpse of the Platonic reflection of that transcendent homogeneity is given in the purity and simplicity of childhood, much like the peasant life that represents the collective form diachronically and the pre-civilization culture that represents it synchronically.
The struggle toward something entails a persistent, however subtle and concealed, consciousness of the end. A progress or evolution of any kind is initiated on the ground of a pregiven impetus and teleology at least potentially present in what evolves. Actuality is the dance of potentiality. Seeing things from above, the common struggle of all existence is a struggle to return to the Ideal; however, it is felt in the form a return only from the inside; from above it is a struggle to remember the Ideal, and at the peak of this holy mountain, the real and the ideal are one and the same. After all, we can only forget what we already know.
“A good flight with a bad landing is still a failure,” the prophet kept whispering with all the intention to annoy me. I went to flight school in my late 20s but I didn’t attend any of the landing trainings. I am a one way flight man; I just like to take off and keep going. Maybe I should’ve become a Falcon driver if there is such a thing.
Outer space has always called for me and it is a perfect one way flight. I remember when I was five I became aware of a passion for going to space. My parents thought I wanted to become an astronaut and advertised me as a bright and ambitious kid! Little did they know that I wasn’t looking at a 9 to 5 or a career in space. I just fancied the idea of being absorbed in total freedom and no sense of orientation. My one desire was to become totally desire-less. But the family didn’t need to know about my ulterior motive, neither would they ever grasp the breadth and significance of it as the prime driving force of my life. They eagerly watched the trajectory of my life with all the pride in the world until Boooommmm, the untold explosion of the noema on August 20th, 2013: the family watched the following crash and burn in awe as did the spectators of the Challenger disaster. A detailed report of the flight and the consequent failure generated by the Omission Commission remains classified to this day except a leaked excerpt stating “the man’s desire was met.”
Even now as a grown ass man I still have a love of deep space, deep space both as the Self and the Other. It is included in my will that my lifeless body be shot into empty space in a disposable capsule so that I can forever fly away from mundane origins and relativities and like my spirit become the origin and the source of all relativities.
I love the moon with its dark side. I love the Truth with its oblivion. Unlike the Pythagoreans, I love the undetermined and the unlimited.
The atheist is a man or woman disbelieving in a god of his own understanding. In rejecting God as an absolute principle of reality, he unjustifiably promotes his own fallible reason to omniscience, a station whose very existence he had set out to refute. Atheism, like relativism, is self-contradictory for merely logical reasons. But perhaps we may offer a few more or less intellectual and esoteric conceptions of God, in the sense of Godhead, as food for thought for those who rather see than believe.
“The coincidence of all opposites.” Rumi
“An infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” Liber XXIV Philosophorum
“The synthetic unity of all antithetic determinations.” Eugen Fink
“The permanent actuality of the Self.” Rene Guenon
“The eternal present.” Don’t Remember
“The undifferentiated and un-differentiable state of consciousness.” Tomaj Javidtash
“Awesome.” Arthur Vandelay
There is a dirt road in the very heart of this city; it goes neither to the north nor to the south, neither to the east nor the west; neither to the northwest nor to the northeast; neither to the southwest nor to the southeast. This is not a road to any other dimension, neither is it a road with any orientation. This dirt road goes back, as it were, to the dimensionless seed of all dimensionality; it is a hidden road to a hidden door opening to where I am before extension and duration shoot forth and apart, before my face is washed away by the swaying waves of time and space.
This painter is not in the paining; this painter is the paining staring into the abysmal mirror of the witness. The painting is the reflection of the painter in the eyes of the witness.
This dirt road, this one right here in the heart of the city of the heart, is quite peculiar, for in this journey I am always already at the destination, so that when I arrive I am there to receive and welcome myself. This dirt road completes a journey that has never begun, and yet it is not complete unless it is begun.
The journey from time to eternity has no duration. Infinity is not indefinite extension, neither is eternal life a mere indefinite prolongation. Stumbling upon my grandeur by way of their fortunate birth, men of relative knowledge see in Me their own ignorance while men of perfect vision see in themselves my absolute Knowledge. The principle of all principles: your partial knowledge of Me is the Other, the universe; your absolute knowledge of Me is your Self.
Temporal life is a transparent veil over the eternal life. The absolute, eternal life has not become relative and temporal; and the relative and the temporal have never come into Being. What constitutes this apparent veil over my infinite depth is always Ideation. Drop all that you see and all that you are, and you will instantly recognize the ever shining face of Truth. No one has reached Me by way of position and accumulation; those who find Me come by negation and annihilation.
The dirt road goes from here and now to nowhere and nowhen; it concludes in an all-inclusive singularity in which all times and places have come together for supper. In this silent orgy all masks are dropped at the door, and both notions of union and separation are left behind the slaying edge of the event horizon. We must become naked to the Spirit before It enters us, and in entering us we enter It: we are thrown into that stateless state Turiya. In that blessed moment all opposites are reintegrated in their transcendent principle. The inside phenomenologist Eugen Fink calls this corner of all corners the synthetic unity of antithetic determinations. Dante knows it as the dimensionless point in which everywhen and everywhere is concentrated. Our Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi sees it as the coincidence of all opposites. What a sobering coincidence! Oh, we threw a play in which the king and the clown are one and the same.
This dirt road is infinitely long and infinitely short; it is not for the sane hearted for whom we have laid the highways of religions and philosophies, the expanding ladder of doctrine. Let us say no more but that every human being is a dirt road and a camouflaged portal to eternity. Access code: neti neti.
This heart of mine knows not where to hide; it is sought as it seeks, and it is found as it finds. This heart falls into ecstasy with every glance of the beloved; my beloved stands on every corner of this Bazaar. This hide and seek is a one man game.
If your right thumb aches and you are interested in our way, visit our one convenient location in that black hole right at the crotch of religion and philosophy; park your self outside the hole, and when you enter don’t decorate the hole.