Category Archives: Pain and body

Protecting Myself

What does it mean to protect myself? Most people probably do feel strongly that it’s important to protect myself. How does this relate to vulnerability, which we also yearn for?

As I look at it, there is so much stored in our memory that comes from past painful situations. As tiny babies, our nervous system was often overwhelmed by what would seem to an adult to be small things. As we have gone through life, there have been moments of almost overwhelming stress, anxiety, and pain. Sometimes these episodes have eroded the health of the body and nervous system.

What’s left over from these episodes is a deep guardedness to make sure we never go through that kind of experience again. This guardedness is on a deep neurological level. It feels like it resides firmly in the bones, muscles, nerves. When it is triggered by something that reminds the body/nervous system of a past traumatic event, it instantly comes into play faster than we can consciously react.

One difficulty with this build-up of traumatic reaction patterns, in my observation, is that it continually expands. If I was once afraid of a supervisor speaking angrily, I may now be afraid of supervisors in general. It seems to be part of how the nervous system functions that it tries to continually cast a wider net to watch out for danger. It also seems to reinforce itself, digging in deeper. The next time a supervisor speaks critically, the traumatic patterns says, “See! I knew there was danger here,” and the pattern becomes even stronger.

Eventually, as we have more years of experience, the fear of so many things can make our lives very limited. It can become difficult to be flexible with friends and family. Our options become limited and we can find ourselves living an unsatisfactory life in some or many ways. But there is nothing we can do about it because these fear patterns feel like they are saving our life.

Is there a way to work with past fears that is not restrictive and increasingly debilitating?

Naturally, it is helpful to start to become aware of the reaction patterns – how they manifest in the body, what seems to trigger them, what the thoughts and emotions and feelings are that are wrapped up in the reaction. I’m not sure what it takes to start becoming interested in this. If someone else suggests it to me when I’m in a triggered state, I’m likely to resent it. I don’t want to see what’s going on. I want to protect myself. Which seems to mean I want to react, to do what I think I need to do to protect myself. Maybe I feel like I need to get back at my supervisor. Maybe I feel like I need to quit my job. Maybe I feel like I have to move out of town. Whatever it is, all of the energy seems to want to go into the reaction.

Unfortunately, my habitual reactions may also become sources of anxiety. When I get even with a supervisor, I get fired. When I quit my job, I can’t pay my bills. When I move, I have to start all over again.

So it leaves me not really knowing any more what to do. Instead of doing something, I may start listening more closely to these reactions. Why? Because on some level, knowing myself, knowing what is going on inside, becomes more important than defending myself in the same not-very-functional ways.

So I begin to have a new relationship with myself. I want to know what’s going on inside. I’m interested in seeing things freshly.

Along with this may come the possibility of relating to the outside world – the supervisors, the unreliable friends, the dangerous people – of relating to them in a new way too. Out of this, when a supervisor speaks angrily, something new and different might happen, unpredictably. The new interaction might not be pleasant. Or it might be! But it is new. It doesn’t add to the old pattern. And it comes from simply being interested, open to something new.

In this way one’s life may shift dramatically from protecting oneself from the “known” dangers of the past to being interested in what is going on inside and among the people and situations of my life. Along with this, even in a challenging situation, there might be the realization that we are all in this together.


What does “no self” mean?

This dialogue was in response to a quote to the effect that suffering doesn’t end. The sufferer ends.

LL: What is your take on all these issues? Frankly, the hardest part of the teachings for me to grasp is no self. i still feel pretty much like me after decades of practice.

S: I think, for me, the concept of no fixed or reified idea of self makes the most sense in the teachings of non self. It’s always in flux, in response to conditions, and when I am attached to a fixed version of what is “me,” or perhaps my own interests, it can create a lack of ease.

Jay: I feel as S does that “self” is not a fixed thing. Going back to the original quote, it said something like “suffering doesn’t end. The sufferer ends.” I can relate this easily to physical pain. When I’m in pain, there may be a moment when something drops away and suddenly the pain is more bearable. What drops away is, I would say, a resistance. Some part of me didn’t want the pain and was physically doing something to try to block the pain out. This actually increases the pain – at least speaking for myself. Another way to say it is that there is less space for the pain to “spread out”. When the resistance ends, the additional pain that it was causing also ends. The original physical pain is still there. But there is more space. Actually there seems to be infinite space.

We can probably agree that at least one definition of “suffering” refers to the extra pain that is caused by resisting what is happening. So suffering is not exactly the same as pain.

But when that resistance is going on, for me there is usually a very strong sense that it is ME that is suffering. There is a strong sense of being the sufferer. And with that is a sense that I need to protect the me that is suffering. And this can lead to a huge effort to build a story, a plan, in which I eventually protect myself from suffering. The story can involve making strong efforts and engaging in strenuous practices and learning wise teachings. But all of this is built on the desire of me to protect me.

When the resistance drops away, this sense is completely gone. It is clear that the resistance, with all of its fantasies of me protecting me, causes unnecessary pain. It turns the attention away from what was actually happening and into a fantasy world, which might include the fantasy world of spiritual progress.

When the resistance drops away, the sufferer is no longer active. The story of what I can do to protect me has been replaced with direct intouchness with what is going on. At the same time, the physical body is here, aching. My mind, my history, my personality, have not been somehow swept away or vanquished or spiritually healed or overthrown. They are just quiet, not interfering, but available if needed.

We could say, as LL mentions, I am still me. But there is no complicated story about what I am. Fantasy is not operating. It has been replaced by simple presence and sensitivity to what is here. I am still me but I don’t really know what that is, other than the cool air on the skin, the sensations in the belly, the feel of someone’s presence nearby, the quietness in which all of this rests.

So we’re talking about the fantasy-story of me and where I’ve been and what I need and want and how I plan to protect myself with valiant efforts – we’re talking about this whole fantasy-ing process of the mind dropping into silence and being replaced with simple presence, sensitive awareness, without an agenda.

I’ve noticed that the dropping away of the me-concern happens on its own. It is mysterious. It doesn’t happen as a result of intention or of practicing something. Intention and practices are aspects of our story-mind. When there is presence functioning, intention and practices are unnecessary. Instead we respond creatively and spontaneously to what is actually taking place, with an intelligence and compassion that function on their own.

This is my experience. We can all examine and watch this in our own lives to find out for ourselves.

Where Does Peace Come From?

The reflection below was in response to a discussion on finding peace in the middle of non-peace. Some people referred to practices that they have used that they hope will bring more peace. The inquiry below examines and questions how this really works in us.

When I consider this careful, here’s what seems to happen for me. So something triggers me and I’m angry and defensive. That means my teeth are grinding, my stomach is tight, my back hurts, and I want to lash out at someone. My mind is going over options for doing that.

In this state practicing “peace” is impossible, really. I guess that means that the idea comes up of getting back to a state in which the body is relaxed and the world feels spacious. But at that point it’s an idea that is in complete conflict with what is actually going on.

If someone suggested I try to do that, I’d probably glare at them!!!

What IS real for me is that tight, painful, angry, hurtful state that is manifesting itself. No space at all. Just tight, gnashing teeth and guts. Something keeps me from acting out on the impulses, though. Something, somewhere out of my sight knows that the impulse that wants to act out leads to trouble. So there is the pain of this state, the emotional pain and the physical pain of it but it doesn’t go anywhere. It stays right here, burning, hurting.

Of course many times it doesn’t stay right here and I say something angry to someone.

But when it does stay right here, it is noticeable that there is a tremendous urge to get away from the pain and tightness. One channel for getting away is yelling at someone or hitting them. Another might be to channel that energy into punishing myself. And another big channel is to try to do some practice to become more peaceful in the future. A huge urge for someone to give me something to do that will get me out of this pain, even if it is lifetimes later!

So for me, no practices to become better for the future. Just not running away from the states of no-space, no-compassion, no-peace. Just not moving away from how this all manifests in the body, the thoughts, the feelings. No idea of how this will all come out in the near or distant future. Just burning right here with what has manifested in this body/mind, as it does through almost every other human being, with, for once, someone not moving away from it into a discharge of pain, which causes more pain, or a plan for getting away from the current pain.

In not running away, in burning right here in this place of no-space and no-peace, the sound of a bird might suddenly come through. Or the smile of a person. Or an insight into the suffering of the person I’m angry at. It becomes clear if such a moment happens that this tight, painful, suffering, burning state is not all there is. It is happening in vast space, whether that space is felt or not.


Questioner: To what degree does meditation make one aware of their physical health? I would like to gain knowledge on how to become stronger and avoid health problems. But it occurs to me that many health problems like strokes, seizures, and heart attacks hit people without obvious signs beforehand allowing the person to intervene.

Jay: To me meditation – taking quiet time to be in touch – by definition is an increase of sensitivity. But sensitivity certainly isn’t a magic bullet!

I can understand your concern about becoming a victim to some bodily state that happens so quickly that you can’t defend yourself. This seems to me to be a deep fact of life. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care for our health but at a certain point it seems true that things are going to happen to us that are out of our control. So one meditative concern of mine is how do I relate to that fact, that reality.

First of all, at this moment that I’m typing these letters, the concern that something out of control is likely to happen to me is a thought in my imagination. If someone asks me if that thought actually reflects reality, I’d say it most likely does. But at this moment if that thought grabs hold of the mind, the mind begins to wonder how to deal with these theoretical future events. And this is more imagination. And with the worrying, more discomfort right now.

The curiosity arises as to whether I can just not worry about it right now, since nothing bad is actually happening at the moment. Or even if there is something uncomfortable and out of control happening – maybe some pain in the back – relating to a real situation is very different, much simpler, than imagining relating to an imagined future difficulty.

Another aspect of this for me is coming in touch with the deep feeling of vulnerability that comes to me in realizing how easily the world can affect me beyond my ability to control things. That is a very deep feeling. Have you ever allowed yourself to really feel your vulnerability?

I don’t have much to say about other health problems you might face. There is so much reactivity and defensiveness programmed into our brain that it is often impossible to sort out what pain is caused by a medical situation and what is caused by our resistance to what’s going on. Meditation helps foster the sensitivity to distinguish this.

And meditation may help foster a direct experience that we are not just the body, that our actual existence is much vaster and that the sense of the body may fade away almost completely and we are still here. This is helpful to explore.

I hope this addresses your concerns a little. You’re welcome to write back with questions or comments.

A Different Mind and Body

For most of us there is usually some agenda operating in the psyche. By agenda I mean something like that there is a sense of something I need to do in order to protect something that is important to me. We are so used to operating from agendas that we don’t see them as such. And yet sometimes there’s the feeling that something is pushing me or bugging me, something that won’t quite let go. Or there is a noticing that the mind is going around and around in the same thoughts, exhausting itself but not quitting. There can also be the feeling of just being exhausted and wanting to give up but not knowing what it is that has been driving me or what I’m so disappointed in not being able to get.

Even in quiet moments of reading, watching a movie, “hanging out” there is much of the time the buzz of random agendas checking in, thoughts running unheard in the back of the mind while the consciousness is distracted. I’m also thinking of dialogue, in which we are hoping to shed light for each other but most of the time what we hear and say reflects unseen agendas, such as wanting to be accepted in the group, not wanting to sound stupid, wanting to reinforce a belief that there is some spiritual activity we can do to become better meditators, wanting to maintain a certain feeling of equanimity and not fall into confusion or anxiety, and so on and so on.

Very occassionally, perhaps very rarely, there is a giving up of all the agendas, a dying to them. This may happen in the presence of something overwhelmingly beautiful. It may also happen in dark despair when there is no hope left and hope dies away, and with it all agenda. As little children we fell into this state often, naturally, because dropping of the filters of agenda allows the beautiful world to be seen, felt, experienced, lived. So the person coming across something amazingly beautiful lets go of all the enclosing agendas and opens totally in order to drink in what is all around them. Similarly, the person in dark despair who finds all agenda, all hope, dropping away, suddenly finds that they are the whole world. When agenda is gone, everything is here but we have lost the ability to live this way. This latter happened to Eckhart Tolle. On the brink of suicide all agenda dropped away and he found himself amazingly and mysteriously alive and boundless.

We long for this faintly remembered existence of undivided aliveness and yet we deeply trust the concepts and assumptions of our agendas, which are numberless. And so through our agendas we try to find a way out of agenda. A person may believe deeply that personal hard work is the key to everything and so they apply this to spiritual work by working very hard at their meditation. Another person may believe that the most important thing is certain feelings of happiness and so they avoid all experiences that might diminish their feeling of calm or peace.

With careful listening and talking together and a great deal of time devoted to extended meditative time, we might begin to discover agendas in ourselves and not be fooled by them. Agendas are not “bad”. They just operate darkly so that there is no intelligence guiding when the agenda needs to function and when it is getting in the way.

When we become interested in discovering these agendas in ourselves, Presence is already operating. I have to take at least a small step back away from an agenda for it to become visible. In fact it is always Presence that is operating because there is nothing else. But one aspect of this undivided energy of life is the ability to create a sense of a divided inner world and this strange energy blocks out the direct experiencing of what we are. This “inner world” thinking makes the mind operate in a strange, enclosed mode such that the mind does not want to be seen. It wants to hide itself. Such a mind operates darkly, suspciously or naively, in a confused way, trying to impose patterns onto a world that has nothing to do with those patterns. Such a mind is opaque to insight, thick to anything new, largely unable to perceive the feelings of others correctly or sometimes even to understand that others have feelings. Of course things are not always as dark as this for us, fortunately. We often work at being loving, caring, understanding, intelligent. But interestingly this is usually experienced as effort, feeling as though love stands in opposition to something else.

At the same time, this kind of thinking affects the body and nervous system, making the body feel tight and conflicted, as though it were battling itself. It ties up the arms and legs, the gut, the eyes, so that we walk and talk and move in increasingly crippled ways as we get older. Eckhart Tolle refers to this as the pain body.

But in a moment when all agenda has let up its grip and the mind is dwelling in Presence, this strange, non-productive mind and body drop away as well, and there is a feeling of freedom and naturalness in the body and the mind operates with an all encompassing love and intelligence because it sees everything as not separate from what it is. This is effortless compassion and effortless intelligence. It is a different mind and a different body.

We can’t monitor whether or not we’re being agendaless. Monitoring is an agenda and requires the mind dividing itself into an evaluator and the evaluated. So it’s a relief to stop monitoring whether we’re in Presence. We can, though, become interested in noticing our agendas – how much fear we have around being seen in certain ways, how much anxiety we have about ourselves, how tight we become in trying to attain our professional goals or establish a safe-feeling environment, how little we’re able to hear the human difficulties expressed by people around us. Presence actually opens in us by surprise. When there is interest and I really feel that it is more important to get in touch with what a jerk I’ve been than to make myself look like I’ve got it together, then I’ve dropped agenda (protecting myself) in favor of simple Truth. That is effortless.

As agenda after agenda becomes exposed, it probably becomes easier and easier for concern about ourselves to die away so that this simple moment here – regardless of what is revealed in it – can shine. In such moments this different body and mind operate naturally, easily, effortlessly, in vast space, not belonging to anyone at all.

As always, these comments are meant to invite your response, disagreement, inquiry.

Awake in the World

I received an email today with the topic Awake in the World. The email was from a Buddhist magazine and it invited people to submit their perspective on what it means to be Awake in the World.

My first reaction was “What does this mean?”. Where does this question of what it means to be awake in the world come from? Who would ask this question and in what conditions? On the surface it is easy to relate to. It sounds like a wonderful goal to be more awake amidst the difficulties of life. But on this level, what kind of an answer would I be looking for? Most likely I would want advice. Someone wise should tell me how I can accomplish this goal. Or perhaps I would rummage through my store of experiences and give advice to others. On this level I would want someone to outline some steps, so I can make gradual progress, or I would want someone to show me how to practice the skills of being awake in the world. Or at the very least I would want someone to encourage me that it’s possible.

The kind of answer that I would want on this surface level does not seem deeply satisfying to me. Advice, encouragement, practicing skills, seem to only scratch the surface. They may have some immediate benefit but it is not long lasting. So I am asking again what is really beneath this question about how to be awake in the world. What would bring up such a concern in myself or in another person?

One thing that might bring up this concern would be if I reflect on my life and find it to be full of muddle, confusion, mistakes, misunderstandings, uncertainty, having my feelings hurt and hurting the feelings of others, and so on. Reflecting on this means that memory is activated, doesn’t it? Stored memory traces of our past experience are activated, woken up, and they reveal their content, which is full of sadness, pain, wanting, and more. Maybe there is some joy in the memory but memory seems to predominantly like to store unfinished business and seems preoccupied with what is difficult and painful.

So something activates this sorrow-self of memory. Is there an immediate reaction to do something about it? To resolve to live better in the future? To plan to be a “better” person, a more awake person? This seems to be part of the memory structure as well – to plan a way to avoid future pain by analyzing what caused pain in the past and by creatively planning a strategy to avoid that “cause” in the future. When the perceived source of pain is the memory structure itself, memory becomes extremely creative in figuring out plans for being “liberated.”

If this sorrow-self becomes activated and is felt throughout the whole being, is it not possible for it to simply express itself, with all of the bodily sensations and emotional sensations that are part of it, without the automatic process taking hold of escaping from it into lofty spiritual plans?

Sitting here, deep sorrow just barely under the surface, an experiential understanding of the difficulty of the human condition, the palpable feeling of sadness pressing down on the diaphragm, the hum of the refrigerator, warm air pressing on the eyelids, this itself is the world in its fullness. The world itself is awake in this moment. Sorrow is not separate from it, from the flow of blood, the movement of air, the stillness. To say “awake in the world” seems to divide this single, simple energy of presence into someone that wants to be prepared for difficult events versus the events themselves.

What is the world at this very moment? What is it that wants to be awake? Are these two separate questions? Just listening in open space. Does it matter at all what particular feelings, emotions, sensations, states of mind or body or environmental influences take place? Nothing left to evaluate whether there is awakeness or not. Nothing left to label anything as the world. Is it clear that the world of concern about the past and the future is a dream, a fog? That when this dream too opens to the wide world, there is just this moment, full and complete in itself. What is it this moment?

The Childlike Mind and the Aging Mind

Question: I assume the purpose of meditation is to gain a more clear perspective on the world and life? I noticed that when I think of people who meditate I normally think of older people. Never children. I am 31 and personally have found that meditation helps me unclutter my thoughts and gain a level of efficiency of thought that I haven’t had consistantly since I was a child. Do adults have the most to gain from meditation? Perhaps it is like an extra nights sleep everyday to help tolerate this whole aging thing and decline of brain functionality that comes with age?

Jay: Hi. I’m reading your interesting note. I’m trying to get a sense of what your main question may be. You are talking about noticing a difference between the child-like mind and the mind that has come to be your adult mind. Is that accurate?

So maybe let’s consider first what this adult mind is that seems more cluttered and less efficient, as you said, than the child-like mind. It’s certainly true that daily life as an adult usually requires a lot of high-powered mental activity that leaves the mind tired. Probably for most of us this mental activity is out of our control. In other words the demands on us come from our life situation, including work, and so we can’t just turn them off when the brain has had enough. As a result, humanity walks around with exhausted brains.

How does the brain recharge? For some people it may rarely recharge. Sleep offers a chance for recharging but an extremely overworked brain may not even have the ability to recharge through sleep any more. Vacations often are not particularly refreshing. Maybe some people have worked out ways to feel a little fresher after a vacation. Leisure time is often spent in activities that numb the brain – television, reading, etc., though I’m not putting those activities down per se – and often leave the mind even more overburdened.

The alternative is to sit quietly, without overbearing sensory input (music, voices, etc) and without consciously trying to do anything about the state of body and mind. This allows the entire body/mind (one undivided nervous system/organism)to “unwind”, to go through its own healing process – unimpeded by our usual efforts to control the activities of the mind and body. This is different from sleep in that, first of all, the body is upright and is receiving simple sensory information and secondly, the mind is awake. There is a kind of healing that happens in this quiet but alert sitting that does not necessarily happen in sleep.

Our poor minds probably have an almost bottomless need for this kind of quiet “unfolding” that heals the overworked nervous system. If enough time is allowed for this kind of sitting, the mind may become fresher than we are used to. It may take on a different quality that only a refreshed and energized nervous system can. Maybe this is what you are referring to with the uncluttered and efficient mind.

Is it inevitable that most of our life is spent in mental and physical exhaustion? We might start questioning this by looking at the external elements of our life – work and personal demands. Maybe there is a way to rearrange things so that there is more healing time. I personally get to three 7 day retreats every year and may try to increase that to more.

In many unseen ways, though, there is something in us that keeps us locked into mental exhaustion. No amount of external change can deal with that. It requires becoming aware of the internal scenery (do you get a sense of what I might mean by this?) with sensitivity, which requires a quiet and sensitive mind.

What keeps us locked into mental exhaustion? This is an important question that each of us needs to find out about for ourselves. In sitting quietly, the activity of the mind becomes noticeable – the kind of things that the mind is continually concerned about, that it does not want to let go of. Do you have a sense of this? Protecting myself in my work, my relationships, my health, my money. Trying to anticipate difficulties that may arise (by continually scanning the memory for dangerous situations) and trying to come up with strategies so that I will be prepared to avoid difficulty. Daydreaming about pleasant things that have happened (which is again the scanning of memory) and contemplating ways to get these pleasant experiences again. In all of this activity the mind is unable to simply hear and feel what is going on right now. And all of this activity keeps the mind working, struggling, burning calories and exhausting brain cells. Anyone can discover some hint of this in sitting still, though the mind may need to recharge a bit before this comes to light.

So the primary “purpose” or perhaps a better word would be “function” or “healing activity” of sitting still and attentive is that a quiet presence begins to take over and this quiet presence reveals the workings, the assumptions, the fears, the exhaustion, the longings of the body/mind, freshly – for the first time. And from this simple seeing of what is really going on but has not been noticed comes an intelligence that begins to transform how we exist.

I have seen people of 80 looking fresh as a daisy and young as a child after 7 day retreat. Much of the aging we experience is the heaviness of a mind that does not understand what it is doing and yet is compelled to struggle day and night.

Meditative work is utterly simple. To be touched by the world and to become visible to oneself, it is only necessary to let up on manipulating, controlling and changing what is going on right now, at this moment.

Maybe this is enough for now. I may not have understood your concerns and/or I may not have expressed my reflections very clearly, so please feel free to write back for clarification.

Question: Yeah I was concerned that even meditation, sleep, and low responsibilities in even an adult life might not keep the brain from wearing down and becoming unfocused and prone towards forgetfulness and missing the big picture as well as the obvious. Would you say meditation can keep the mind as young as a person wants it to be? I just finished reading the book, “OSHO Meditation” and looked that guy up to find that many found his works a little contraversial. I thought most of what he had to say made good sense, but what other common perspectives are there on meditation that are different from his? Is it true that meditation must be in the persuit of experiencing, but not thinking? I can’t be focusing on one simple problem in a passive way hoping an answer will rise? People don’t “meditate on a problem” do they?

Jay: You seem to be concerned with the aging of the mind. Like all things the various functions of the mind do wear down and eventually cease completely, unless you consider biological decomposition to be another function of the mind.

What is it that you do mean by mind? What aspect of mind are you concerned about wearing down? Memory? Clear thinking? Focus? You can really question and then observe silently if these functions are really what define the mind or if they might be superficial aspects of a mind that is deeper, stiller, simpler.

Another way to look at this is to observe very carefully how the mind functions, what exhausts it and what energizes it, not necessarily for the purpose of controlling because controlling is clearly one of the things that exhausts the mind.

And what about the fear of losing abilities, skills that seem important for living a quality life? What is the root of that fear? Is there any ability we have that is not subject to being diminished or destroyed at any moment? Does this mean we are doomed to constant fear?

I read just a little from Osho just now. He says “Don’t do anything – no repetition of mantra, no repetition of the name of god – just watch whatever the mind is doing. Don’t disturb it, don’t prevent it, don’t repress it; don’t do anything at all on your part. You just be a watcher, and the miracle of watching is meditation. As you watch, slowly mind becomes empty of thoughts; but you are not falling asleep, you are becoming more alert, more aware.”

You ask about other perspectives on meditation but Osho has summed it up simply and completely. What he says is not a perspective. It is listening, presence. It is the absence of perspective, the putting aside of our million perspectives. Interestingly, he talks about teachers who teach all sorts of techniques, strategies and perspectives: “Whatever Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and other people like him are doing is good, but they are calling something meditation which is not. That’s where they are leading people astray.”

The human mind is full of important, living questions that vitally need the light of silent attention to unfold and clarify. From what you write, you are touched by these questions. Ultimately, we each need to sit with these questions ourselves, though it can be good to talk together using words. You ask about the relationship of experiencing to thinking in meditative listening. Check this out yourself. Is it not true that when the brain is dominated by thinking, very little of what is going on is experienced, even though the thinking thinks it is a whole world unto itself. It can be easily noticed that in a moment when thinking goes silent, the world of sounds, sensation, spaciousness is revealed. It also becomes clear that there is no one, no controller, that can stop thoughts from dominating the mind. That is thought trying to stifle itself. And yet, there can arise from who knows where an interest to be with the direct experience of life. And then thought may quiet down !
on its own.

By meditating on a problem do you mean to sit down and consider what it is that is bothering me? Maybe reviewing it in the mind. Considering different aspects of it? Well, why not? I think this is helpful. But rather than having the mind go off into trying to solve a problem, can this return to listening? Listening for insight, for clarification – not in what is already known or remembered – that is old habit – but in the open space of not knowing. Just listening into this unknowable moment. Forgetting everything that is known and letting what is unknowable open up and reveal itself.

Does this address your concerns at all?

Question: I guess my question was more about the breaking down of the brain since persumable the “mind” is intangible and not very well known. I am concerned for my clarity of thought and focus and confident perspective of the world around me. Also I was asking if something like focusing on a problem as in “meditating on it” is outside the realm of “meditation” since it isn’t strickly observing and taking in the world. I don’t know if it would pass Osho’s definition anyway.

Jay: I understand your concern about clarity of thought, focus and a confident perspective of the world. I have always felt that those were my tools for being successful, for being able to make money, for being able to take care of things (including myself) for being a good friend to people, even for being able to have a good relationship. For a long time I felt that those qualities were the hallmark of meditative work.

I don’t feel that way now. Sometimes for me the mind is not clear but it doesn’t bother me. The part of the mind that functions clearly in me is often tired and overworked. Rather than trying to drum up the energy to force it into clarity, I am perfectly happy to leave it as it is. In fact in that state it is often easier to listen to others, to cooperate (since my clarity is not driving dictating what it thinks I should do) and I’m more relaxed physically. So far this has not prevented me from surviving financially or in any other way.

Often the memory part of the brain in me is tired. It takes a break and there is a long lag in coming up with the right word or in remembering someone’s name. It doesn’t bother me because it’s clear that the memory brain easily gets tired and it’s learning to take a rest when it needs it. When this happens, I feel more directly in touch, happier, more relaxed. I’m not happier because I can’t remember but because memory is not dominating the brain, a more nourishing part of the mind is waking up, a more child-like part.

I recently visited with Toni Packer, the woman who led the many retreats I attended over the years. She is now in her 80s and has a serious neuropathy that requires that she be in bed most of the time. Between the lack of activity and the painkillers for her neuropathy, her memory is very poor. In our conversation she would forget from one minute to the next what we were talking about and the conversation itself was very “wandering”. I called it a right brain conversation. Not linear or logical. But the conversation was very sweet and full of humanness. What most struck me about her was that from time to time she would respond directly to hearing something elsewhere in the house or outside. Her response was direct and immediate. It became clear that even with the mind very incapacitated, her nervous system, her cells, had learned over the years to stay in touch with direct experience. This did not require the mediation of a clear, focused perspective. After observing this, !
I lost my concern with what would happen to my clear, intelligent mind. And in any case what happens to my mind is mostly out of my control anyway. But the important thing is this ability for the entire system – body, mind, skin, nerves, cells, hairs – to relearn how to be in touch with what is happening right here, simply and directly. Sensorily and yet in stillness. This is where intelligence and compassion come from.

Meditation is simply the shedding of light on what is arising at this moment. A good question might be “Then what, if anything, is NOT meditation?” It can be observed that usually there is very little intouchness with what is going on. Usually the mind is almost completely absorbed in the world of thought, which has the feeling of being about the world but allows very little intouchness with what is here right now – including its own nature. Thought is blind to itself, to its own nature. But presence can perceive thought and can recognize what thought is and what its limits are. It may seem like a fine line but it can be observed and it is a critical difference.

So if there is a problem, usually the first reaction is to think about what I know about the problem. There is nothing wrong with that. It is intelligent. Intelligent thinking is more like what I described above as presence being able to see thought. I think good thinking has that quality, as opposed to obsessive thinking (why the hell did he do that to me and how can I get back at him, etc etc etc).

So problem solving may start with thinking. What do I know about this? But just like the tip of an iceberg, what I know about something is only the smallest part of the situation. The body and root of a problem lies in the unknown, the unknowable. This is the silence that is entered into in meditation. Sitting, listening, in touch, without knowing, beyond expectation.

The unknowable is unknowable so you don’t have to worry if you are “doing it” right to someone’s specifications. You don’t have to monitor whether you are doing it to your own specifications. Monitoring is a limited activity of knowing. It can drop away too, and with it drops the energy drain of monitoring. This is the beauty of letting go of what is known (not negating it but just acknowledging that it only goes so far) and just listening without knowing. Things reveal themselves as they are, freshly, for the first time, in a child-like way.