The Meditation of The Self: Part II – The Real Purpose of Meditation
Quieting the mind is only the first (though constant) step. The real purpose of meditation is turning the mind to its Source, one’s True Self, the Oneness which we already always are. This is why, from the beginning of my teaching, while emphasizing the need to understand the hold that our brain/mind has on our perception of self and world, I have focused on The Mediation of the Self.
While quieting chattering Character-driven thoughts is essential, and is the best place to start, the goal is to bring your sense of identity back to your True Nature, or Real Self. At first this may be little more than a concept conveyed by whichever teaching one has resorted to. And it may actually occur in brief moments before brain/mind kicks back in with its tenacious effort to maintain the self-made Character and world it seems to see.
How then can we Meditate on our Self before knowing it directly? How can we bring our focus to our True Self when we have only a concept or fleeting experience of it, before letting go of our identification with our self-created Character? The teachings of the Course in Miracles and other traditions tell us that nearly all of our mental and perceptual experiences are under the sway of our brain/mind Character.
As the earliest lessons in the Course tell us, our perceptions and thoughts mean to us only what we have given them. And since they are rooted in our existing sense of separation, they are meaningless, as they are without the true meaning of Oneness, which is why we are taught to quiet our Character-chattering mind and be skeptical of our perceptions.
But there is one aspect of our mental experience that is not brain created; and that is our awareness itself! Neither the body nor the brain are aware, since the teachings tell us that our true mind is not in the body, but rather the body, and the brain, are images in the Mind of God. And we are in some way, looking and acting through those images in God’s Mind, as we are that One Mind ourselves.
There is only this Absolute Oneness! There are no parts or pieces, no time, no distance, no matter making up things in separate pieces. All “things” are forms created in the One Mind, the Mind of God, the Mind of the Universe, or whatever your tradition terms it. But images are not aware. And since you are aware, your True Nature is that very Oneness that is Reality. So, the images of body and world, of the universe itself, are all in our One Mind.
But the brain-mind, operating on the program of the Character you have constructed over your lifetime, does it’s best to take ownership. It declares itself to be the source of awareness, thought, and behavior, using its “antivirus programs” to kick out anything in its system that subverts its ownership and control. It does this by directing your awareness, which is real, to thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, and feelings that are not real, thus distracting our mind from the Truth of our Oneness.
Awareness is the light of consciousness. It is what gives life to our body and brings awareness through our brain mind, on which our self-made Character runs like a program. And our consciousness, like the awareness that enlivens it, comes through, and not from, our brain-mind. Thus, at whatever level of awakening one may be, the one thing in our experience that is already an aspect of our True Self, is our awareness.
The Meditation of the Self then begins with turning one’s attention to awareness itself! First, you learn that your Character’s thoughts and perceptions are manufactured and given meaning by your brain mind, thus rooted in the illusion of duality. Next, you begin to distinguish thought from perception. There are many examples in daily life, such as driving a car and suddenly realizing you have been “somewhere else,” seeing and hearing something else, while still driving correctly. Your brain/mind perception was on driving but your awareness was on something else entirely.
At some point, you realize that only your True Self is aware. Then as the techniques of quieting the mind increasingly take hold, you find that awareness remains without thought or perception. Now, your attention must turn to that awareness itself, as it is the core part of your conscious experience in this world, and comes from your True Nature, your Real Self.
It would be dualistic to just say that you turn your awareness on itself, though at the beginning that is what it appears to be. You begin directing your attention to your awareness itself. You question what is aware of the seeming awareness of the body brain/mind? What is aware of that awareness? More accurately, you are realizing that what you think of as your awareness is the brain/mind Character asserting ownership of awareness itself.
More accurately you are regressing back through the layers of Character identification, falling back towards your real, primary awareness. The outermost layers of social, national, religious, ethnic, body identification, and so on, often peel away first, as your teaching tradition has already had you questioning them, and often can be released in meditation. The intention here, as always, is not to repress or judge the thoughts and images the brain/mind Character throws up to your awareness, but simply to recognize that this is the ego’s defense of its seeming autonomy, its attempt to distract your attention from your awareness of your Self.
As I said in Part I, this might be thought of as a computer antivirus program that kicks out viruses that would undermine the computer’s programs or files. The brain/mind Character is not aware of Spirit or Self (the Character does not have awareness!), any more than the computer is aware of outside viruses. Both are simply programmed to react to anything interfering with its internal operation.
One technique that I, and my students have found useful in meditation, is to turn your attention to the faint pattern of speckled point of light that you see even with your eyes closed and in total darkness. These are phosphenes, which are generated in the eyes themselves, even in the absence of light. If you maintain attention on this faint speckled pattern, you may see them forming larger patterns of swirling light and colors. With sustained attention, they may even briefly resolve into recognizable images. These images are often random, and different from the images that the brain/mind pulls up from memories or thoughts, which, by this time you are familiar with.
But notice that when these familiar thoughts and images come up, it is as if they are on another “screen” in your mind, and that you are no longer focused on the phosphenes, which are simply patterns created by the eyes. If you notice this, as nearly as you can, let go of the images on this second “screen” and you will find yourself again seeing only the phosphene patterns, which are most often abstract and less identified with your Character’s thoughts and memories.
This is simply a technique for letting go of Character thoughts and identification and letting awareness fall back to your real and primary awareness of your True Self.