An extract from Russ’s book “Touch of Awareness” (available in our store)
To sit on the meditation cushion and commit to stay there for a length of time, whether it be ten minutes, or ten years, is the single greatest step we can take toward coming to know ourselves: coming to know what lies within us. It is here that we engage the most intense, and powerful method for training our mind.
It is here, with persistence, that we expose the depth of our being and are brought face to face with the darkness and the beauty of who we are. On the meditation cushion we cut away the screen of the ego to reveal the truth of what it is to be human.
A tradition that reaches back more than 2,500 years, and probably has its roots in the birth of humanities self awareness, is to look within. With the birth of self awareness comes the desire to understand: to know thy self. These two go hand in hand, each feeding the other in a spiral of self perpetuating growth. The historical Buddha practiced the meditative arts half a millennium before Christ, and every spiritual system I have explored has its contemplative component. A desire to sink below the surface of existence and gain knowledge of our place in the universe is at the heart of every spiritual endeavour, and can even be seen in the cave art of our earliest ancestors. The knowledge and understanding we gain from non-ordinary states of consciousness can inform the way we determine our life and lead to a more complete and beneficial existence. It is to this end that meditation is practiced; it is for this reason that we sit down and look within.
The process of sitting and watching our breath, as it comes in and as it goes out, is the most simple and yet the most profound method for training our mind, and to train our mind is an unavoidable necessity as we pursue the consciously intuitive state of being. Without the ability to settle our mind on an object of our choice, there is little chance of consciously accessing intuitive knowing. There is also little chance of moving beyond the mundane existence we ordinarily experience. Intuitive awareness arises in the quite emptiness that exists in the space left when the insistent voice of the thinking mind has faded away. But the nature of the ego driven thinking mind is that left to its own devices, it will not fade away. Habitually, our mind is a perpetual stream of thoughts, each thought being generated out of the previous thought, or triggered by external circumstances that are mostly beyond our immediate control. Most of the time, we do not control the thoughts that arise in our mind, and yet it is these same thoughts that lead us through life, and determine who we are. As the consequences of effect/cause role endlessly on, this universal law is determining that each moment that arises, is dependent upon the previous moment for its existence. So to in our mind: the law of effect/cause is habitually determining the thoughts that arise there. This habitual way of unfolding our life causes a great deal of suffering, for in it, we are at the mercy of circumstances caused by past actions, and through our run away mind, we are often riding the roller coaster with white knuckle tension. If we are to truly become the guide of our own life, we will need to become aware of, and then tame, or even put an end to this habitual way of thinking. This will require us to subject our mind to some training. When we sit on the meditation cushion, this is the task we are accepting: we are stepping out of the ordinary waking state and into a bigger place; a place where we move beyond the ordinary way of perception and become aware of the mechanisms that unfold our life. It is here that we shake ourselves out of a long sleep and something within us begins to awaken. This pin prick of awakening is the crack where the dawn begins to eat away the darkness. Meditation is a life changing endeavour and the core practice to awaken our intuitive self.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making darkness conscious”.
The most powerful method of bringing the thinking mind to conform to our wishes is to sit and watch it. Sitting still, with the intent to watch the process that our mind engages in, floods light into the dark and unseen recesses that we are ordinarily unaware of. As these dark recesses are illuminated, we become aware of the processes that our mind engages in and if we are persistent in this practice, eventually, we will come to know the nature of our mind. As we come to be conscious of our mind, and how it works, we are afforded the opportunity to direct not only what we think about, but even whether or not, we will actually think at all. We actually gain the ability to become the director of the activity of our mind, and through our thoughts, we become the director of our life. As awareness arrives, confusion leaves. The theory is quite simple; sit still, and become aware of the breath. But as we begin this practice, it is not long before it becomes apparent just how difficult the actuality of this endeavour is. It can take a lifetime of work to bring the mind under our control and still this may not be long enough. Yet the benefits far outweigh the cost, for even as we begin, there are practical and profoundly positive changes that appear in our life. For some of us it is enough to feel a little calmer as we move through our day; for others, nothing short of the fully awakened mind is our goal. Whatever our aspirations, sitting meditation will assist us to live a better life.