Meditation is such a powerful tool for personal development and spiritual insight, yet many of us give up before we even get started. I wrote about this in Taijiquan: Through the Western Gate (See “The Problem With Meditation“). Here are a few more thoughts on the subject.
Our nervous systems develop by pushing against stuff and gauging the resistance encountered. All experience comes from gathering sense impressions of the objects we encounter and weaving a story about them.
“The couch I’m sitting on is brown leather which is similar to that chair, but longer. I remember when I bought it and how long I had to wait for delivery…” Our senses can only register the surfaces of things. For example, no matter how detailed my description of an oak tree I can only approximate the tiniest fragment of its oakiness. I can only know about it, and the story I create to give it meaning is based on suppositions from prior experience and imaginings of possible futures.
Like Plato’s Cave, we try to figure the story out by interpreting the shadows on the cave wall. And we’ve done a pretty good job over the last few millennia: describing, categorizing, and quantifying.
(Comic Cameo thanks to XKCD.com)
There is a cost, though. As Martin Buber brilliantly pointed out, all experience is in the past. It takes time for our nervous systems to sort through the millions of bits of sense information it receives each second and come up with the few bits our conscious minds can formulate into a recognizable story.
And that story only has meaning if it is seen in the context of familiar elements. So, by the time we make sense of what just happened, we are well into the next moment. We think we are in the here and now, but actually are tracking things about a third to a half second after they happen. Most of us don’t even notice it, since we’ve been doing it so long. It shows up, however, in sports, martial arts, or emergencies when a half second can be an eternity.
There is a toll on the body/mind too. When we are out of phase with the present moment things don’t go smoothly. It’s like when the timing of your car engine is off. There are unnecessary vibrations that if unhandled make it less efficient, then shake, then fall apart. You may notice it as a clumsiness in your movements or more often, as mental chatter or noise. Your nervous system knows something just isn’t right and so works very hard to sort it out by going through every possible thing that could be wrong. “Peace of mind” becomes very elusive, leading to all manner of unhealthy conditions.
So what does this have to do with meditation?
Meditation is a way of putting your nervous system into neutral by getting back in phase with the present moment. You return to wholeness, if only for moments. You are not experiencing, not thinking about anything. You are re-establishing your RELATION with what is. In those moments you resonate with the Tao. You enter a transrational state of consciousness that permits you to transcend and include your nervous system.
In the above section from TTWG I have described a proven method for “instant meditation” by accessing a heightened state of energetic coherence. Please try it and let me know your results.