Notice your breath, focus on this flame and recite this mantra. Stand on your head, tuck in your stomach and bring your awareness to your third eye. We are often guided to “meditate” by focusing or fixing our attention on one spot. Whether that spot may be a sound, a body part or any external phenomena. If you ever go to a Yoga conference or an intensive workshop, you’d be bombarded by so many meditation techniques, methods and practices. Many forms, or ways to practice “quieting” the mind or coming into peace.
The word focus implies a sense of particularity. An act of narrowing down and choosing one point of reference. If you pay attention to act of paying attention, you’ll notice there is tension involved. When commanded: “Attention!” the soldier jumps into a tensed state of alertness. That is exactly what we do when we focus. We tense ourselves into alertness. When we “meditate” with the intention of focusing or paying attention to a singular point of reference, what we are actually doing is tensing up, bringing about a sense of rigidity and concentrating our being in a “tight spot”.
In the east, they have a clear distinction between concentration – ‘Dharana’ and meditation – ‘Dhyana’. The primary distinction is whether there is or isn’t an object to focus on. In most schools of philosophy, in Dhyana or meditation, there is still a distinction between the observer and the observed. The state of absolute oneness, where there is no differentiation is considered Samadhi or enlightenment. I would like to offer another perspective. When meditation can still occur within the realm of duality, meaning there will still be “two” – the mind, the watcher, and life, objects, names and forms as the “watched” or “witnessed”.
For me, meditation is a state of what I call, peripheral witnessing. It is a state of consciousness where you allow your senses to relax, loosen the grip or sense of focus and just absorb all that is within your sphere of awareness. In the visual plane, you stop focusing on certain objects, you simply watch the unfolding imagery in front of you, in the realm of sound – simply letting the sounds or silence be as it may. Sensations, feelings, thoughts and understanding all are but passing clouds, leaving neither trace nor any sort of impression on you. You become the background of this enigmatic sense of observation.
You’ll notice, rather quickly, an uneasiness, an awkwardness if you might. It will be the mind’s attempt to narrow down your field of focus and hold on to a specific point or grounds. Your mind will attempt to understand – stand under or beneath something it can control and explain. In a way, a meditative experience is “over-standing”, an occurrence of a mysterious state of affairs where you can’t control, define or limit. You aren’t really certain nor sure of neither what’s happening nor can you define the direction of motion you’re heading. You’re unclear when you begin and end and how long has this experience been happening to or within you. A meditative state isn’t an experience of knowing, but of the unknown happening not for you but to you. Your clearly defined limits of your “you-ness” will seem to shift and transform into something completely different.
It is an interesting paradox, but when focusing on a singular point, this action of fixed attention actually creates a defined state of “two-ness” or duality. The observer and the observed. If you’d like, even more – a “three-ness” — the motion which is involved in this creation, the act of observation.
If you understand, or over-stand… this experience, which means nothing more than a surrender to its occurrence, to the fact it simply is and there’s nothing you can or even should do about it, you can begin to touch something of the mystery of love.
Love is the greatest expression and purest form of duality we will ever encounter. It is such a mysterious enigmatic phenomena. We see it happening when one focuses on a singular point of reference – their beloved. The action, the act of loving becomes one and the same. Loving as an action, the feelings and motions it will generate, is the most exhilarating experience of the two celebrating the one. It is a non-conflicting state of the will to merge yet remain separate. The experience of love, therefore, is the introduction of the divine oneness, into the celestial two.
When you sit to meditate, what you are clumsily trying to do, being a being that knows nothing but doing, is merge into oneness while maintaining your separate “two” form. You experience nothing but separation, you feel your body, your thoughts, your feelings, you see the difference between I and thou, yet you sit, close your eyes, focus or un-focus in order to merge back into oneness. As if there is some kind of action you might be able to take, lifting the veil of separation and taking you back home, to the state of wholeness your disconnected, fragmented self is craving so deeply.
But just like love… meditation is something that happens to you. Envelopes your being and changes your perspective on life itself. Of who you are, it shifts your wants and wills. It allows and accepts and truly does literally nothing while changing everything there is to change. It is a non-action action. It is the most profound un-doing you’ll ever undertake. Meditation is a state of peripheral witnessing, of letting go into the unseen and letting your self be seen by life itself. If you let go of your attempt to focus on your attempt to focus you’ll experience the joy and mystery of life enjoying it’s moments of focus on you.