The word ‘mindfulness’ gave rise to a recent post [The Being of Here and Now] that examined the work of controlling the focus of consciousness, and how the development of that control, through ‘concentration,’ along with the the evolution of one’s ideal, can give rise to what Hazrat Inayat Khan called ‘contemplation.’ Some interesting comments were posted in response, but–perhaps from politeness or perhaps because no one actually read to the end of the post–no-one mentioned the omission of the third phase or exercise described by Hazrat Inayat, that of meditation.
The earlier post used the image of a person in a small boat, surrounded by heaving waves, beset by changing winds and threatened by ominous skies. Probably everyone can identify with that image to some extent, but in order to understand the final step, that of meditation, we have to step back from that picture, and recognise that the boat metaphor is not a description of reality. It describes our experience or our perception, that is true, but our experiences very often do not correspond to reality in the absolute sense. Imagine, for example, that one is journeying in a far land, and one day, upon going to a cash machine, one receives a message that one’s account is empty. Suddenly, one faces great difficulties, a disaster, total poverty–and one might have a sleepless night on a park bench as a consequence. But later one discovers that it was only a technical error; the funds are there, after all. For a time one had the experience of being completely penniless in a strange land, but in fact one’s wealth remained unaltered. In the same way, we experience anxiety and even torment from our thoughts and feelings, but they are transitory, merely temporary waves upon the ocean of consciousness, and not at all as real as we think they are.
There are different ways of describing the spiritual path. A religious person might say, “I don’t know if it is permitted, but I long to know God. It is that knowledge that I seek.” A Sufi might–perhaps–say, “I want to know the Source so that I can understand my own Self. By knowing the One, surely I can solve the mystery of my own apparent existence.” But however the search is understood, it originates from an inner certainty that there is more to life than the limitations and disappointments that we face in this world. Whether one longs for Truth, or Light, or Love or Perfection, or Self, the name does not matter; the seeker is always looking for the Absolute.
When we embark (referring again to boats) on the control of the mind, we may discover a wonderful paradox. On one level, we are exerting a tremendous effort of will to be simply present in the moment: to be honest, for once, and admit that all the thoughts and speculations in which we chronically indulge ourselves have little relation with the here and now. And paradoxically, as we learn to dwell more and more in the present, we discover that our horizon expands infinitely; unshackled from the non-existent past, and liberated from the shadowy future, we may learn that the absolute moment is infinite: infinite Truth, infinite Love, infinite Compassion.
From here it is only a stepless step to the stage of meditation, to relaxing the mind, opening the heart, allowing the mask of ‘me’ to fall away, and permitting the infinite to flow through, like a cosmic wind, without impediment.
Dear Nawab thank you for this additional explanation. Personally I have difficulties with the thoughts, they keep coming strong in my meditations, although each day through my practice, my prayers, the breathing exercises I have found more control over the mind, and those few seconds that I am able to relax the mind are indescriptable.
In an earlier post, when I asked the question about concentration, contemplation and meditation, I was perhaps concerned with a certain flow in the practices, leading from concentration to meditation and how that ‘order’ affected one’s awareness. I also asked, if wazifas and fikars were contemplation practices. It is fascinating the use of a metaphor, which does not describe reality but our perceptions. Yet, we need to train the mind to allow the infinite to flow through. If I understand correctly, breathing exercises are a meditation practice. Is it so? If so, how patterns, time and the structure of a practice lead to relaxing of the mind, opening the heart, allowing the mask of ‘me’ to fall away, and permitting the infinite to flow through? In other words, how does a ‘structured’ practice allow the infinite, which has no borders? Thank you,
Structured practices, such as breathing or prayer, help prepare us for meditation, but are not, in themselves, meditation. Perhaps it is a clumsy analogy, but take the example of a surgeon: s/he may know the body very well, and have expert skill in healing, but will still thoroughly wash the hands before picking up a scalpel. Or, to return to our ‘illusory’ but useful metaphor of a sailor: before setting sail, the good sailor carefully stows away all the gear needed for the journey; he or she does not want the deck of the boat cluttered with items, even those items that may, at some point in the journey, be needed.
In the same way, to approach the privilege of meditation, one prepares by relaxing and centering the body, making the breath rhythmic, and washing away ‘impurities’ from the mind and heart – impurities in this case meaning, whatever does not belong there. It is a thorough application of the lessons of concentration and contemplation that makes this possible.
Thank you, dearest Naeab.
After reading your answer, I feel I have spent many years cleaning and preparing the boat for sailing. I wonder if I have ever sailed… Can you please teach me to sail?
Your longing is your passport. Untie the boat, with a little push glide away from the dock, and let the ocean teach you. There is a saying: If you want to learn to pray, go to sea. And there is another saying: I have always known that someday I would take this journey, but yesterday, I did not know that it would be today.
Sending love from the high seas,
Thank you for the advice, dearest Nawab. Sharifa
Thank you ! ~~~ <3 ~~~
Just to say thank you too, Nawab. I feel sometimes as in the same stage of dear Sahrifa. It is a sacred process which can not be contaminated by the ‘fast life style’ in which materialism surrounds us. We better don’t arrive to the ‘Fast meditation in three minutes’, or things like that. Of course, sometimes it will help us to stop and breath before saying or doing something, but hopefully this not become an habit. It is really soothing to see movements as ‘slow city, slow food, etc’, trying to counteract this tendency of our civilization of running away from the precious present we have.
Sorry! just to make it clear. Yes, it is a very good habit to stop and breathe before saying or doing something, but what I mean is taht we acquire this habit because we get the commitment to slow down ourselves with profound processes as concentration, contemplation and meditation, as for example in the Sufi Path.