West coast spiritual teacher Adyashanti has produced this highly instructive audio program called ‘True Meditation’, which takes the aspiring meditation practitioner through some of the fundamental concepts of meditation. While Adyashanti’s tradition is Zen Buddhism, this is not an introduction into Buddhist meditation as such, but a general framework for what he calls ‘true meditation’, providing the listener with a plethora of personal experience and practical advice.
‘True Meditation’ comes in 3 sessions, each lasting for some 60 – 80 minutes. Session 1 is titled ‘An invitation to let go of control and allow everything to be as it is’ and deals with the underlying notion of what meditation really is about. The aim of meditation is awakening, to become enlightened, which is described as the natural state of being.
Hence, the initial objective of true meditation is to let go of control. Meditation is not about controlling or mastering the mind, which would be mere concentration. Rather, we need to let go of what our mind thinks of meditation and bring an innocent, fresh attitude to meditation where our personal history is not of significance any more so our ego does not get into the way.
The second foundation of true meditation is letting everything be as it is. Meditation is actually not a new technique, but a way to investigate.
Meditation is a means to see what happens when we let go, which is the true foundation of spirituality. In this context, meditation is not only sitting in a formal way, it can be engaged in any situation in our life, connecting to the mystery of our being. In meditation we let go of our mind and reconnect to our senses. If the mind wanders a lot, which it usually does, we can anchor it in our senses.
The third foundation of true meditation is meditative inquiry, introducing a question of real worth, in which the spiritually most powerful question is ‘Who am I?’ We need to move beyond the meditator, we need to let go of the meditator as this is the controller. Insight in meditation is not intellectual, which is just a way for the mind to stay in control. Adyashanti thus describes meditation as the ultimate act of faith, as the journey from the illusion of separation to the truth of oneness. By letting go of making effort we find out what happens in our consciousness.
Effortlessness here does not mean no effort, but to make just effort to be vivid, present; an ‘effortless effort’ so to speak. A perfect posture is therefore not important; we can even keep our eyes open if we feel drawn to it, we can do what is really ours. When we really let go what needs to surface comes to the surface. Allow things to reveal themselves, there is no need to do anything with it. Unconscious material simply wants to be experienced and hence goes away – if we let it by simply being aware and not interfering. Awareness has a natural flow to it, awareness will do what it has to do, it has an invention all of itself. Allowing awareness to just be, spirituality becomes our life. And the deepest gift that spirituality has to offer is to wake up from the illusion of separateness.
The second session of ‘True Meditation’ is titled ‘Meditative Self Inquiry’ and further elaborates on the aforementioned foundations of true meditation:
The answer to any question that ever comes up eventually is the same: I am. We need to stay focused in our meditative self inquiry, we really have to want to know, any spiritually important question points back to ourselves. Without inquiry meditation simply leads to certain meditative states, but not to awakening. Meditative self inquiry requires us having the right question, something that has energy for us, what is the most important thing for us?
What is meditation, spirituality for us? – It can be a lot of different things for many different people.
First we have to find out what we are not in this process: We are not our thoughts, nor our feelings or our personality, there is something primary that can observe our thoughts, feelings and personality. Awareness is actually what we are. It is your innermost being and it is what everybody else is.
This insight is radical because thought cannot recognize anything beyond thought. So it is a transcendent revelation.
Meditative self inquiry is exactly that, as the mind is asking the question, our inherent intelligence is involved in what Adyashanti calls subtraction, coming back to our true nature subtracting what we are not – our thoughts to awareness: Pulling our existence back from the external elements back to our essential nature.
We engage our mind, we engage our intelligence, but it happens from the neck down, as the mind cannot know who we are. It is about feeling in our being.
It is abstract in the mind, but it is very visceral, kinesthetic in the body. We do not deny mind, ego, personality, but our identity wakes up from the dream of separation. So we rest in our source, so our mind, ego and personality come into a natural state of harmony, where our ego forces are not at odds with each other anymore. So we gain harmony of body and mind.
Spiritual inquiry begins with what we are not, but after the subtraction comes the great inclusion: Awareness, which is just a word and might be replaced with spirit, does not oppose thoughts. It is actually what the ego always needed: the true nature does not try to change the humanness. We start to feel unity within ourselves. It is important to remember at this point that meditation is not philosophical, intellectual, but experimental.
The third and final session contains 3 guided meditations for the listener to actually experience what has been talked about until this point.
While meditation ultimately will be still and without external guidance, guided meditations are a tool to initially lead people into silence.
Guided Meditation 1: ‘The art of Letting everything be as it is’ – this provides the foundation or groundwork for everything else that comes. If we find that space within ourselves where everything just is we find the space for inner transformation. Relax and let go of the meditator.
Guided Meditation 2: ‘Letting go of control’ – letting go of control we spiritually let go of my will. Explore the deep significance of letting go to something deeper and more inclusive. The meditation is a simple prayer about not my will, but the hearts will be done.
We are trying not to connect with something outside ourselves, but something very deep in ourselves. My will is conditioned hence we need to let go of it.
Guided Meditation 3: “Spiritual Self inquiry” – How to ask a spiritual question in such a way so it leads us beyond the egoic mind identity to the direct experience of oneness.