Meditation of the Self: Part I – Quieting the Mind and Turning Inward
Virtually every mystical/non-dual spiritual tradition, those which underlie or prefigure the major world religions, have two major fundamental tenets.
First, Reality is an Absolute Oneness. Given that our brain/mind fundamentally operates on dualistic subject/object processes, Oneness would seem to be literally inconceivable, yet despite this difficulty, the concept of Oneness is frequently invoked in many spheres of life. Despite the blocking of our brain/mind, it is impossible to eliminate the Truth. At some level we know it.
The second major tenant, which naturally follows, is that…We Are That Absolute Oneness. Since Absolute Oneness has no parts or pieces, no spaces within, and nothing is without, we are not “part” of Oneness, or in some sense, “spun off” from Oneness. We are that Oneness itself! But identifying as it, is beyond the scope of our dualistic mind, regardless of our inner knowing.
Despite this difficulty of conceiving Oneness, let alone identifying as it, we have records of those who report direct experience of Oneness, and their Identity with It. Such records go back as far as we have written language, and point to oral shamanic traditions from prehistory.
These ancient records were later codified into the major non-dual/mystical traditions such as Vedanta, Zen, Sufism, Mystical Judaism and Christianity, as well as many native traditions, all of which form the basis of the world’s major religions.
Since Oneness has always already been the very nature of Reality, and therefore our Real Identity, it has always been possible for individuals to realize this True Nature. This, despite the eons in which humanity has seemingly lived with a false sense of separation, ingraining and massively reinforcing this false sense into the very fabric of family, tribe, and culture.
It is these few, uniquely sensitive individuals, who became the first Enlightened or Awakened shaman, priests, saints, and those few recognized world teachers, all of whom passed the reality of their state to a few around them, leaving teachings and practices for others to follow. Over vast time, these became the world’s religions, bringing some sense of the Oneness of Reality into the cultures of the world.
However, despite their universal beginnings, world religions tend to become accommodated to the materialistic and separative cultures in which they arise. This led to religious identification with various cultural identities, leading inevitably to conflict. It is often said that religious identification with worldly identities has been a major driver of conflicts on both national and individual levels.
Despite this cultural accommodation of religion to worldly separatism, any tradition that encourages people to focus on God or their own awakened founders through study, devotion, prayer or meditation, opens the door to the inner path to awakening.
And the awakening traditions nearly all describe their essential practices as “subtractive” rather than “additive.” That is, rather than adding God, Truth, Spirit, or Oneness, which they all say is always already our True Nature, they work to remove the separative elements and beliefs in the mind. These elements that enculturation and identification with the separative experiences of the Character that we have created over our lifetime, and believe to be ourselves, block the awareness of our True Nature.
The goal of nearly all such practices is to quiet the mind and to allow the made-up mind of our seeming self to fade from our awareness and let our True Mind or True Self to be revealed. At first, these moments of quiet and connection are often brief as the brain/mind, operating on the “program” of the made-up Character, strongly resists thoughts, ideas, and even perceptions that undermine the assumed identity, or its view of the world.
A person’s identity, or self-concept, as well as their worldview or internal image of the world, are symbiotically related, self-reinforcing, and extremely resistant to radical change.
This might be thought of as the way that computer antivirus programs resist computer viruses that would undermine the integrity of the existing computer functions and programs. In a lengthy essay on another site, I have called this The Tenacious Hold of the Paradigm. This is why really quieting the mind usually takes determined practice, and a willingness to let go of strongly held thoughts and beliefs.
The real purpose of meditation then is returning the mind to its Source, one’s True Self. But if we can’t even fully conceive of that sense of Identity, how can we bring our attention to our own True Self, if we can’t know its nature until we experience it, and only even think of it in separative concepts?
We’ll look at that in The Meditation of the Self: Part II – The Real Purpose of Meditation.